State of the service

APS Values and the Code of Conduct

Australian Public Service (APS) employees are expected to display high standards of ethical behaviour. APS employees hold positions of trust and have an obligation to ensure that their behaviour, inside and outside the workplace, does not bring their agency or the APS into disrepute.

All APS employees are required to comply with the Code of Conduct. A breach of the Code of Conduct can result in sanctions, ranging from a reprimand to termination of employment.

Code of Conduct investigations involving 717 employees were finalised by agencies during 2015–16. This represents less than 0.5 per cent of the total workforce. This is up from the 557 employees investigated in 2014–15, which represented less than 0.4 per cent of the workforce at the end of that year.

Of the Code of Conduct investigations undertaken in 2015–16, 87 per cent resulted in a finding that the Code of Conduct had been breached. For the previous year, 85 per cent of investigations resulted in a finding of a breach.

The number of Code of Conduct breaches by element in 2015 and 2016 is shown below.

Figure 1.

Elements of Code of Conduct breached 2015-16

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This image shows the percentage of breaches of the APS Code of Conduct for 2015 and 2016.  Uphold the APS Values and agency reputation - 2015 79.3%, 2016 75.6%. Act with care and diligence - 2015 50.0%, 2016 57.1%.  Behave honestly and with integrity - 2015 53.0%, 2016 56.9%.  Comply with lawful and reasonable direction - 2015 24.3%, 2016 25.6%. Treat everyone with respect and courtesy - 2015 22.8%, 2016 21.2%.  Use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner - 2015 17.9%, 2016 18.3%.  Not provide false or misleading information - 2015 11.2%, 2016 9.6%.  Take reasonable steps to avoid conflict of interest - 2015 24.9%, 2016 5.9%.  Not make improper use of office - 2015 10.8%, 2016 5.0%. Comply with all applicable Australian laws - 2015 4.2%, 2016 2.2%.

Of the Code of Conduct investigations in 2015–16, 87 per cent resulted in a finding of a breach. Sanctions were imposed in 66 per cent of cases.

In a small number of instances there were some employees who were investigated and sanctioned more than once during the year.

Figure 2.

Outcomes of investigations into suspected breaches of the Code of Conduct 2014–15 and 2015–16

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This graphic shows the number of people who breached the APS Code of Conduct and had a sanction imposed.  In 2014-15 it was 356, with 476 in 2015-16.This graphic shows the number of people who breached the APS Code of Conduct and had a no sanction imposed due to resignation.  In 2014-15 it was 88, with 94 in 2015-16.
This graphic shows the number of people who breached the APS Code of Conduct and had a no sanction imposed due to 'other reason'.  In 2014-15 it was 30, with 54 in 2015-16.
This graphic shows the number of people who were investigated for breaching the APS Code of Conduct and had a no breach found.  In 2014-15 it was 65, with 85 in 2015-16.
This graphic shows the number of people who were investigated for breaching the APS Code of Conduct but the investigation was discontinued due to employee resignation.  In 2014-15 it was 7 and in 2015-16 it was 11.
This graphic shows the number of people who were investigated for breaching the APS Code of Conduct but the investigation was discontinued due to 'other reason'.  In 2014-15 it was 7 and in 2015-16 it was 11.

Seventy-four per cent of employees in cases where a breach was found and a sanction applied in 2015–16 received a reprimand. In most of the cases this was accompanied by another sanction as well.

Thirty-eight per cent of employees who received a sanction for a breach of the Code of Conduct were given a reduction in salary. This result was similar to the previous year.

In the most serious cases a breach of the Code of Conduct results in termination of employment. In 2015–16 87 employees had their employment terminated. This was up from 81 in the previous year.

Figure 3.

Sanctions imposed for breach of the Code of Conduct, 2014–15 and 2015–16

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This graphic shows sanctions imposed for breaches of the APS Code of Conduct for 2014-15 and 2015-16.  In 2014-15 260 people were reprimanded with 354 people in 2015-16. In 2014-15 114 people had a reduction in salary with 181 people in 2015-16.  In 2014-15 98 people had deductions from their salary by way of a fine with 130 people in 2015-16.  In 2014-15 81 people had their employment terminated with 87 people in 2015-16.  In 2014-15 29 people had a reduction in classification with 24 people in 2015-16.  In 2014-15 12 people had their duties reassigned with 9 people in 2015-16.

Results from the 2016 APS employee census show that an overwhelming majority of APS employees believe their colleagues and supervisors act in accordance in with the APS Values. The majority of employees agreed their senior leaders do the same. These results are consistent with last year.

Figure 4.

Do colleagues in your immediate workgroup act in accordance with the APS Values in their everyday work? 2015-16

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This graphic shows the responses to

Figure 5.

Does your supervisor act in accordance with the APS Values in his or her everyday work? 2015-16

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This graphic shows the responses to

Figure 6.

Do senior leaders (i.e. the SES) in your agency act in accordance with the APS values? 2015-16

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This graphic shows the responses to


5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent to see these statistics published.

  2. Anonymous

    Would be interested to know exactly the breaches investigated were – was it bullying, was it conflict of interest, was it wilful behaviour and/or disrespect. Would like to see a list of every single investigation (obviously redacted).

    • Australian Public Service Commission (Author)

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately the APSC does not collect this level of detail relating to breaches investigated.

    • Anonymous

      Agencies should be required to publish more details about code of conduct investigations. The small amount published in the annual report doesn’t really satisfy agency transparency?

  3. Anonymous

    Interesting to see the 20% difference in supervisor level of acting in accordance with APS values of 89% as opposed to SES with 69%. The fact that 31% sometimes or rarely sees them acting within APS values or are unsure, should be a concern. Is this a reflection of:
    a) Some SES not being visible to staff and therefore deemed as not approachable or hiding something?
    b) Making decisions based on their wants and needs rather than merit based or using factual information provided?
    c) Politically influenced by Secretary or Dep Secs and therefore not being frank and fearless?
    d) promoted through incompetence “old adage of incompetence breeds incompetence” see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/incompetence-breeds-helen-jamieson
    e) or all of the above?

    Generally from my observations most SES are genuine leaders however the few in my Dept who fit into one of the 4 categories above is generally known to all staff and unless they are “performance managed” out the 68/69% ratings will never improve in future surveys. Even if these few SES retire, they will likely mentor a favoured EL2 to take over after they leave and nothing changes.