Accountability, policy and performance

Activities and achievements associated with accountability, policy and performance have continued to develop and consolidate around new legislative functions and the broader role of the Commission.

Directed inquiries

Pursuant to section 24H(1) of the PSM Act, the Commissioner may on his own initiative, or under section 24(H)(2) at the direction of the Premier as the minister responsible for the PSM Act, arrange for the holding of a special inquiry into a matter related to the Public Sector. In accordance with section 24H(4) of the PSM Act, the Commissioner is obliged to include the text of a direction given by the Premier in an annual report to parliament. In 2011/12, the Commissioner was directed to arrange for two special inquiries.

Margaret River bushfire

Pursuant to a direction issued under section 22H(2) and (3) of the PSM Act, a special inquiry into the causes of the November 2011 Margaret River bushfire and related matters was established. The report was tabled in parliament on 23 February 2012.

St Andrew’s Hostel in Katanning

The St Andrew’s Hostel inquiry commenced with the announcement by the Premier on 17 November 2011. Former Supreme Court Judge, the Hon. Peter Blaxell was appointed Special Inquirer to investigate the response of government agencies and officials to allegations of sexual abuse at St Andrew’s Hostel in Katanning.

The inquiry’s terms of reference include examination of allegations made, who they were made to, what action was taken in response to those allegations, and to report with recommendations on any necessary changes to the policies, procedures or operations of government agencies.

Note: The Premier of Western Australia's 'Direction to undertake special inquiry' letters to the Public Sector Commissioner for both the Margaret River bushfire and St Andrew's Hostel in Katanning inquiries can be found in the PDF version. To request this letter in an alternative format, please contact the Public Sector Commission.

Assessing compliance with standards and ethical codes

Breach of standard reviews

The public sector standards in human resource management set out the minimum standards required of Western Australian public sector bodies in the management of a human resource function. The standards relating to discipline, grievance resolution, performance management, redeployment and termination have been in operation since 1 July 2001.

On 21 February 2011, the standards relating to recruitment selection and appointment, temporary deployment and transfer were amalgamated to form Commissioner’s Instruction No. 1 - Employment standard. Employees and applicants deemed unsuccessful in recruitment and selection processes can lodge a breach claim against the employment standard.

The Commissioner administers a conciliation and review process to resolve breach of standard claims. The process applied is prescribed by the Public Sector Management (Breaches of Public Sector Standards) Regulations 2005.

In 2011/12, the Commissioner made the decision to decline 30 claims, ensuring agency processes were not unduly delayed by matters that were considered lacking in substance, not within jurisdiction or not warranting further action. Commission staff performed the role of conciliation and review officer in the resolution of 122 claims, reducing agency costs associated with resolution.

Claims

Carried over from 2010/11

21

Received in 2011/12

125

Finalised in 2011/12

128

Carried over to 2012/13

18

Outcomes

Not valid

7

Declined

30

Withdrawn or lapsed

9

Dismissed

65

Conciliated

6

Upheld as a breach of standard

11

Matters of referral

The PSM Act does not establish a complaint taking role for the Commissioner in matters other than breaches of human resource standards. However, the Commissioner exercises a broad oversight role through specific functions and powers under the provisions of the PSM Act and monitors compliance with standards and ethical codes.

This role is defined very broadly in the legislation and can involve the Commissioner taking action including the assessment, examination, review, investigation or inquiry of certain matters that he becomes aware of, or that are brought to his attention. A decision to act on a matter may be triggered by the following:

  • a matter of particular public interest
  • issues apparent in breach of standards claims
  • matters arising from general monitoring and compliance with ethical codes and principles of human resource management and conduct
  • a request to provide advice to CEOs or ministers about implementing improvements to management practices.

The numbers of matters of referral acted on by the Commission in 2011/12 were:

Matters

Carried over from 2010/11

16

New matters received or identified in 2011/12

105

Completed in 2011/12

100

Carried over to 2012/13

21

Significant matters of referral

Significant matters considered by the Commission in 2011/12 included:

  • an investigation into information management practices in the Department of Education as they related to transmittal of a report on the Carson Street School. This was commenced in 2010/11 and the report was tabled in parliament in August 2011
  • a review of accountability and governance arrangements in the National Trust commenced in 2010/11 and concluded in September 2011. The review was undertaken in order to provide advice to the Minister for Heritage and to the Trust. The review report was tabled in parliament by the Minister in February 2012
  • oversight of the Department of Housing review of the incident surrounding the discovery of a deceased person in a Wellington Street property
  • an examination of the adequacy and accessibility of disciplinary policies and procedures used by the Department of Health and the extent to which policies and procedures were being followed consistently across the organisation
  • an assessment report in relation to alleged breaches of the Code of Ethics by ministerial staff, which was completed and tabled in parliament in March 2012
  • a review examining the resourcing, structure and delivery of professional conduct functions in the public sector was undertaken to provide advice to Government on whether there is benefit in centralising these functions. The report is due to be finalised in July 2012.

Effectiveness and efficiency indicators

The Commission conducted a review of the appropriateness of the current key efficiency and effectiveness indicators to its operations and changed role following the Public Sector Reform Act 2010, and plans to introduce changes in 2012/13.

The current timeliness indicator of a single target timeframe is likely to be replaced with indicators that recognise the diversity in the complexity of matters that are received by the Commission.

By way of illustration, the following table reports on breach of standard and matter of referral cases received and the timeframes taken to complete them in 2011/12:

Matters

No. completed within timeframe

Total no.

% completed within timeframe

Simple - 30 working days

66

70

94%

Routine - 50 working days

79

96

82%

Complex -100 working days

41

47

87%

Total

186

213

87%

Public interest disclosure reviews

The Commissioner has responsibilities under the PID Act and is a named authority for the purpose of receiving public interest disclosure matters from outside the organisation. In this capacity, the Commissioner received two public interest disclosure matters in 2011/12, which were dealt with pursuant to the PID Act.

Policy advice

The Commission undertakes a range of policy initiatives and provides support and advice across government policy activities, largely in the areas of public administration, legislation, employment and personnel management, and governance and integrity. In 2011/12, the Commission was involved in:

  • a Department of Treasury led value-for-money audit of the Department of Housing
  • implementation of the recommendations arising from the special inquiries into the Perth Hills Bushfire and the Margaret River Bushfire
  • provision of significant support to the review of the operation of the Local Government Standards Panel and its supporting legislation. The review was finalised in August 2011 and the report was tabled on 27 March 2012
  • development of guidelines for Western Australian public sector employees to participate in the Australian Civilian Corps
  • development of guidelines to meet the Government’s commitment to volunteering as set out in Vital Volunteering 2011­-2016
  • provision of advice to the Premier on issues relating to the Kimberley Ultramarathon. The Commission commenced an examination of the role that public sector organisations played in relation to the event, but suspended its examination in March 2012 when the Economics and Industry Standing Committee of parliament commenced its inquiry, which is due to be completed in August 2012
  • provision of advice on reviews of legislation
  • provision of policy advice and support to cross-jurisdictional working groups resulting from resolutions from the Public Service Commissioners’ Conference.

Legislation and subsidiary instruments reform

Integrity (Lobbyists) Bill 2011

The Integrity (Lobbyists) Bill 2011 was introduced into parliament on 9 November 2011. The Bill provides for an Act to promote and enhance public confidence in the transparency, integrity and honesty of dealings between lobbyists and government representatives by:

  • providing for the registration of lobbyists
  • providing for the issuing of a code of conduct for registered lobbyists in their dealings with the government
  • prohibiting registered lobbyists from agreeing to receive payments or other rewards that are dependent on the outcome of lobbying activities.

The Commission is supporting the Premier in the passage of this Bill through parliament.

Corruption and Crime Commission Amendment Bill 2012

The Corruption and Crime Commission Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced into parliament on 21 June 2012. The purpose of this Bill is to:

  • amend the Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003 and to make consequential amendments to various other Acts
  • confer on the CCC an organised crime function, enabling it to use exceptional powers to assist police investigations into serious offences, exercise certain powers under the Criminal Property Confiscation Act 2000 and implement those recommendations from the Archer Review identified as essential to support the organised crime and serious offences functions
  • transfer the CCC’s oversight of minor misconduct by public officers, and its corruption prevention and education functions, to the Public Sector Commissioner.

The Commission is supporting the Premier in the passage of this Bill through parliament.

Commissioner’s instructions

In 2011/12, significant work has been undertaken to draft and consult (internally and externally) on a number of Commissioner’s instructions.

During the year, the following Commissioner’s instructions were approved by the Commissioner to come into effect in the next financial year:

  • Commissioner’s Instruction No. 5 - Publishing a public sector notice (effective 1 July 2012)
  • Commissioner’s Instruction No. 6 - Workforce data reporting obligations (effective 1 July 2012)
  • Commissioner’s Instruction No. 7 - Code of Ethics (effective 3 July 2012)
  • Commissioner’s Instruction No. 8: Codes of conduct and integrity training (effective 3 July 2012)

A number of Commissioner’s instructions have been drafted and provided for consultation (including consultation with the State Solicitor’s Office). These instructions are expected to be provided to agencies and unions for consultation in 2012/13. The draft instructions are:

  • ‘Review of classification level of employees seconded to special offices to assist a political office holder’
  • ‘Redeployment and voluntary severance’
  • ‘Approved classifications systems and procedures’
  • ‘Senior executive positions’
  • ‘Approved contracts for service’
  • ‘Determining remuneration—specialist positions’
  • ‘Attraction and retention incentives’
  • ‘Re-employment of public service officers employed in statutory offices’.

Performance reporting

The Commissioner monitors and reports to parliament on the state of administration and management and on compliance with standards and ethical codes in the public sector. Amendments to the PSM Act passed in 2010 significantly expanded the reporting role of the Public Sector Commissioner. While the ‘State of the sector’ report will continue to be the primary vehicle for reporting on public administration, the Commission has implemented a program to broaden and enhance its evaluation and monitoring function to address this expanded reporting role.

State of the sector 2011 report

The Commissioner tabled the State of the sector 2011 report in November 2011. The Commissioner, consistent with the requirements of section 22D of the PSM Act, reports to parliament annually on the state of administration and management across the public sector, and on compliance with standards and ethical codes.

The 2011 report was the first following proclamation of the Public Sector Reform Act 2010 and the changes it introduced to the PSM Act, including the expanded monitoring and reporting obligations of the Commissioner. Preparation of the report involved significant input from staff across the Commission, and also from CEOs and public sector employees who contributed by completing surveys and providing case study information. The inclusion of information from CEOs to highlight good practice and showcase the diversity of public sector services was a key feature of the report.

Planning for the State of the sector 2012 report

Considerable work was carried out in 2011/12 to plan for the tabling of the State of the sector 2012 report. This work has included the decision to structure reports around key themes each year—for the 2012 report, the two key themes will be ‘integrity’ and ‘professionalism’. Once again, good practice across the sector will be a feature of the report. The report is due to be tabled in November 2012.

Performance reviews

In 2011/12, the Commission made significant progress in improving systems to evaluate public administration and management. The Commission commenced two performance reviews—the first into how agencies promote integrity, the second into employee performance management. This review program will continue to be a priority of the Commission.

Annual agency survey

Public sector agencies are asked to complete an annual agency survey. The survey provides extensive information about a range of different management and administration issues, including the maturity of key compliance systems. In 2011/12, all agencies completed the survey. The results of the survey are provided in the ‘State of the sector - Statistical bulletin’ published in conjunction with the ‘State of the sector’ report.

Employee perception survey (EPS)

The EPS provides an opportunity for employees in public sector agencies to give their perspective on how well integrity and human resource management policies and practices are operating in their agency. It also allows the Commission to assess the level of employee awareness and understanding about core accountability measures and policies such as the Code of Ethics and PID legislation.

The sampling approach used by the Commission is designed to achieve a representative sample by size and portfolio. The EPS also provides participating agencies with insight into the culture of their organisation. At the conclusion of the process, the Commission provides a detailed feedback report and presents to the agency’s corporate executive group. In 2011/12, the Commission surveyed 4824 employees from 12 agencies and undertook 11 feedback presentations.

Human resource minimum obligatory information requirement (HRMOIR)

Public sector agencies are required to submit workforce data to the Commission on a quarterly basis. HRMOIR data is based on definitions issued by the Commission and submitted according to set timeframes and other specified requirements. This information informs demographic profiling included in the ‘State of the sector’ report and helps agencies to benchmark themselves against other agencies and the sector at large.

In 2011/12, the Commission collected 39 606 641 data points from more than 140 000 employees employed across 126 agencies. HRMOIR data analysis supports production of:

  • quarterly employee (full-time equivalent) ceiling reports to the Department of Treasury
  • ‘How does your agency compare?’ reports to all public sector authorities and public universities for the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment
  • responses to parliamentary questions on regional employment, and Indigenous employment.

Information collected through this monitoring activity informs:

  • the ‘State of the sector’ report
  • feedback to agencies on how their own profile or staff perceptions compare with the sector
  • the compilation of a detailed statistical bulletin to support agencies to benchmark their own performance and profile
  • summary performance reports prepared to assist responsible authorities (boards and ministers) to evaluate the performance of CEOs against public administration priorities.

Data and information management

Improving systems and processes

Data and information collected from the sector is captured, maintained and reported with the aid of web-based tools, a range of database applications and a variety of reporting tools. During the year, a number of improvements were made to tools, systems and information handling practices including:

  • development of automated data validation tools to support agency identification of potential data errors at time of submission
  • enhanced sophistication of online survey tools, allowing for easier progress through online surveys
  • integration of data collection activities associated with website governance data collection
  • improved reporting facilities.

In addition to in-house improvements, the Commission:

  • outsourced some data collection activities associated with the administration of employee perception surveys
  • undertook a procurement exercise to identify a provider for a case management and enquiries workflow database which will improve the ability of the Commission to capture information about, and to examine trends in, cases and issues raised with the Commission.

Data quality improvement

The Commission continues to sponsor a collective effort across the public sector to improve the completeness and accuracy of information about the public sector’s workforce and workforce management systems.

In 2011/12, workforce reporting data definitions were updated in consultation with representative agencies and providers of human resources information management systems in order to promote consistent coding for various workforce information fields.

In addition, a data quality index (DQI) was developed to monitor improvements in the quality of workforce data supplied to the Commission by agencies each quarter. The DQI has three variables that rate the completeness of the data set, the responsiveness of the agency in submitting data and addressing anomalies, and the maturity of agency systems used to integrate workforce data into workforce management and planning activities.

The Commission also released enhanced system maturity descriptors for core administration and governance systems that operate in public sector agencies. These were provided to public sector agencies in association with the annual agency survey. The descriptors are designed to assist agencies with accurately self-assessing the maturity or sophistication of administration and management systems, such as risk management and financial management systems, and support consistent assessment and relevant benchmarking across the sector.


Page last updated 11 September 2014