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Corruption on the radar: Top risks for the rest of 2020

Corrupt elected officials, unauthorised access to and misuse of confidential information, and the exploitation of public sector resources have been listed by one of Australia’s leading anti-corruption figures as the major integrity issues for the remainder of 2020.

Chair of Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission Alan MacSporran QC said another key consideration for the rest of the year that underpins all of these key risks will be corruption prevention initiatives.

Mr MacSporran said that that corruption prevention relies primarily upon a healthy workplace culture.

“Such a culture will encourage early reporting of misconduct and adequate support for the discloser,” he said.

“This facilitates risk mitigation and a workforce which is alert to corruption risk and which has the ongoing capability to mitigate such risks as they are identified.”

Mr MacSporran will be one of the speakers at a panel discussion on corruption and integrity at Governance Institute’s upcoming full-day Public Sector Governance Forum on 5 November.

The panel will discuss the various models that have been proposed for a national integrity commission, the case for independent funding, and the likely impact of a national commission on state commissions.

Other speakers include Chief Commissioner at NSW’s ICAC, the Hon Peter Hall QC, Queensland Integrity Commissioner, Dr Nikola Stepanov, and Deputy Commissioner of South Australia’s ICAC, Michael Riches.

More cohesive workplaces = better corruption reporting

The pandemic has exposed some particular risks arising from the extended periods of working remotely, Mr McSporran said.

There is the ever-present risk of cyber-crime and corruption which has been highlighted by the pandemic. There will always be individuals who will seek to exploit weaknesses in a system such as reduced supervision when working remotely.

However, while new risks emerge so have some unexpected positives, he said.

“The pandemic has also presented a valuable opportunity to generate a healthy workplace culture. During the pandemic it has become apparent that supervisors have an increased responsibility to monitor staff welfare.

Working remotely is not for everyone. Some employees have found it difficult to deal with the isolation. Supervisors have had to take active steps to engage with and care for such employees. Not surprisingly, this has had a collateral benefit of promoting goodwill and engagement.

The outcome has been for a more cohesive, collaborative workforce that has come to understand the value of helping each other deal with the challenges they all face together. My hope and belief is that this will translate into a more coordinated approach to reporting misconduct, not as the mandated responsibility which it undoubtedly is, but more so as a genuine attempt to help the individual get back on the right path and in doing so benefit the workforce as a whole.

Corruption control in a rapidly evolving environment

In a fast-changing landscape – such as during a pandemic – fit-for-purpose governance arrangements are paramount, Queensland Integrity Commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov said.

“For public sector entities and staff, governance under such circumstances includes maintaining a clear focus on public sector values and objectives, including the need to maintain public confidence in the procurement process and use of public resources,” Dr Stepanov said.

She said a heightened corruption risk emerges when normal business processes are affected, such as during a pandemic, and additional safeguards may be required.

An example of a higher corruption risk situation would be one where there is a need to source high volumes of product, on an urgent basis, from untested new suppliers. This was a very common scenario across Australia.

Dr Stepanov said risks in such an environment can be further magnified if:

  • there is not a robust and well documented assessment process for potential new suppliers
  • where there are inadequate processes in place to monitor for, disclose, and manage conflicts of interest of any parties (a leading corruption risk factor)
  • where external parties are involved in making key decisions, such as consultants, particularly in regard to conflicts of interest and their existing third party relationships and ties
  • and/or where the terms of any agreements are more favourable to the supplier than usual, i.e. where payments of 50-100% are expected upfront.

“When all those risks occur together, naturally it creates a very high corruption risk environment,” Dr Stepanov said.

Find out more and RSVP to what promises to be an important discussion on the latest corruption and integrity issues at the Public Sector Governance Forum.

Key details:

  • Half day and full day options available
  • Attend in person in Adelaide or tune in online nationally.
  • Group discounts available
  • The only national governance forum for the public sector will showcase Australia’s leading governance and risk management professionals speaking on key issues.

View the program and register

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