Good governance – Governing for integrity

In this section:

Strong leadership, a positive organisational culture and robust governance systems are all drivers of ethical behaviour, and create opportunities for improved organisational performance and public trust and confidence.

Governing for integrity is particularly complex in regional areas due to the state's geographical spread. Ongoing attention to promoting integrity across all work units and locations will naturally build an environment that promotes ethical behaviour and good decision making.

Public authorities continued to perform very well this year in the areas of good governance and leading for integrity. They continue to maintain and communicate contemporary and appropriate ethical codes, recognise the importance of effective integrity controls and support managers in modelling ethical conduct for staff.

However, while public authorities continue to embrace the 'Accountable and ethical decision making' (AEDM) program to promote ethical behaviour, staff participation or refresher training rates could be improved.

Performance meetings with staff provide another avenue for reaffirming appropriate behaviour. There is scope for public authorities to more regularly reinforce expected standards of behaviour through the performance management process.

Public sector staff smiling

return to top

Leadership for integrity

Effective leadership works to create a wide-reaching work culture where ethical behaviour is the norm. This facilitates the implementation of good governance across the state to ensure employees continue to make good decisions in the face of ethical challenges.

The 2015 employee perception survey (EPS) results suggest regional leaders are more likely to engage in honest and open communication with staff, which may help to mitigate risks associated with staff working in remote locations.

Setting the standard

Leaders play an important role in clearly establishing and modelling organisational values and leading by example. Through their actions, behaviours and the measures they put in place, they strengthen integrity from the top to win staff respect and compliance.

Through this year's EPS, just over three-quarters of respondents (76%) indicated their senior management leads by example in ethical behaviour (up from 71% in 2014).

Figure 2.1 shows this result was amongst the highest across all jurisdictions.

Figure 2.1 Employee perceptions of ethical leadership across jurisdictions, 2014 and 2015 (%)

Figure 2.1

WA 76%, Vic 76%, APS 74%, NSW 70% Qld 55%

Sources: EPS and other inter-jurisdictional publications (see Appendix B)

Ms Cheryl Gwilliam, Director General of the Department of the Attorney General, has previously stated that 'earning trust, retaining trust and serving the public interest is a key aspect of a public servant's role'. The following feature highlights some of her achievements in governing for integrity.

Department of the Attorney General Director General awarded 2015 Patron's Award and National Fellowship

Cheryl Gwilliam

In June 2015, the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) WA awarded the Patron's Award to Cheryl Gwilliam for her significant contribution to the state and the public sector. In October 2015 she was also made a National Fellow of IPAA. This prestigious award recognises the recipient's outstanding contribution to the practice and study of public administration.

Previously the Director General of the Department of Local Government and Regional Development, following on from Chief Executive Officer and other senior leadership positions in Government, Cheryl was appointed to the position of Director General, Department of the Attorney General, in August 2007.

Throughout her career she has placed a strong emphasis on public administration and, in particular, ensuring that agencies have in place appropriate governance arrangements and a strong commitment to client-focused service delivery.

Cheryl also has a passion for developing and implementing initiatives to build a flexible, responsive and diverse public sector. In her current role, she has been instrumental in developing targets for Aboriginal employment, employment of people with disabilities and young people through traineeships.

A strong belief in developing the skills and knowledge of people, organisational development and sound governance which deliver improved Public Sector efficiencies and effectiveness is a characteristic of her leadership.

Cheryl's commitment to the public sector is also demonstrated through her contribution as a member of the Advisory Board for the Public Sector Commission's Centre for Public Sector Excellence.

The former Director General of the Department of Housing, Mr Grahame Searle, has recently been appointed to lead major reforms in service delivery and infrastructure in Aboriginal communities in WA. Mr Searle's leadership in promoting diversity, collaboration, integrity and innovation led to his selection for the role, as highlighted in the following case study.

Leading regional reform – Mr Grahame Searle

Grahame Searle

In June 2015, Mr Grahame Searle was appointed to lead major reforms in the way infrastructure and human services are provided to Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

The State Government announced in May a long-term regional services reform plan, led by Child Protection Minister Helen Morton and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, to enable better education, health, social wellbeing and employment outcomes for Aboriginal people living in regional and remote areas.

Mr Searle left his position as Director General of the Department of Housing in order to take up a two-year position as head of a new, small reform unit.

Mr Searle was chosen for the role due to his extensive experience as a public sector leader and innovator with a particular focus on non-traditional accommodation and housing models, including working with Aboriginal communities to develop innovative housing solutions. He was instrumental in achieving Aboriginal employment at the Department of Housing at a level double the public sector average.

Mr Searle believes there are opportunities to do things better in the regions, noting that a recent study of the Pilbara town of Roebourne identified 63 organisations that provided 200 separate services to a community of 1,400 people. As part of the reforms, Mr Searle plans to consult extensively with Aboriginal communities to improve outcomes, services and value.

The following feature article provides a number of examples of ethical leadership recognised through the award of Public Service Medals in 2015. This medal is awarded by the Governor General twice each year for outstanding service in government.

WA Public Service Medals awarded in 2015

Australia Day Honours, 26 January

Mr David John Hartley PSM

Mr David John Hartley PSM

For outstanding public service to the forest products industry in WA through sustainable management, corporate governance and market development.

Mr Hartley was Acting General Manager of the Forest Products Commission (FPC) from March 2010 and formally appointed to the position in February 2012. He held this position until his retirement in July 2014. In the period prior to his appointment, the FPC faced issues around its corporate governance, financial viability and industry development. Mr Hartley played a vital role in proactive change management in the entity to address those issues, by providing frank and fearless advice in restructuring the FPC in line with government decisions. His efforts were pivotal in focusing the FPC on its core business in native forests and plantations and in improving corporate governance mechanisms. He undertook reviews of the FPC's outcomes-based management framework and formal key performance indicators, and the delivery of the internal audit function, leading to the introduction of a new model for the core internal oversight function in 2013/14. Mr Hartley's efforts in maintaining the FPC's close relationship with the forest industry were also significant.

Ms Gail Josephine Milner PSM

Ms Gail Josephine Milner PSM

For outstanding public service to community health and aged care reform in WA, particularly through the establishment and implementation of innovative clinical programs.

Ms Milner has worked for the Department of Health in a variety of senior leadership roles since 1987. During this time, she has held positions in health system reform, aged care and nursing. Ms Milner has been Operational Director of Innovation Health System and Reform since 2007. In her various roles, she has engaged and worked closely with all health sectors, including private, not-for-profit and government organisations at local, state and national level, including Silver Chain Group and St John Ambulance.

During her career with Health, she has been committed to improving health service delivery in WA, including leading, developing and implementing the Western Australian and Commonwealth Government's National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospitals Implementation Plan. She has also provided ongoing leadership and support to the Clinical Services Framework 2010-2020, which sets out the planned structure of health service provision in WA for the next 10 years. Ms Milner has led the development and implementation of the WA State Aged Care Plan, and the Dementia, Carers and Leadership Action Plans.

Mr Alexander George Errington PSM

Mr Alexander George Errington PSM

For outstanding public service to land conservation and environmental preservation in WA through policy development and senior management roles.

Mr Errington has demonstrated outstanding service to WA in a career that has spanned more than 56 years. During that time, he has held a range of senior positions in the former Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and its forerunners, the Departments of Conservation and Land Management and Environment and Conservation. Most of his roles have included a focus on identifying and acquiring lands for the establishment of the public conservation estate in WA. He is also a former Deputy Ombudsman for the state, and Secretary of the Public Service Board.

Mr Errington has delivered a high level of service in his work on the Land Tenure Project which has led to significant acquisitions on behalf of the state, including the creation of the King Leopold Conservation Park, additions to Nambung National Park and Ellen Brook Nature Reserve, and the increased effectiveness of the management of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, D'Entrecasteaux National Park and Benger Swamp Nature Reserve.

Mr Errington has worked tirelessly, and with great passion and integrity, to acquire lands throughout WA for addition to the state's terrestrial conservation reserve system.

Queen's Birthday Honours, 8 June

Mr Ricky Dawson PSM

Mr Ricky Dawson PSM

For outstanding public service to the environment in WA, particularly through parks and wildlife.

Mr Dawson has worked as a wildlife officer for the Department of Parks and Wildlife and its predecessors since April 1997. He held the role of Senior Investigator from 1997 to 2009 and since then, of Regional Compliance Coordinator. He holds a senior position in the department's small team of wildlife officers that operates around WA. This demanding position involves managing a team of six officers and requires detailed knowledge of the state's flora and fauna and relevant legislation. Since 1997, he has led a monitoring program of the threatened Carnaby's cockatoo at sites in the state's mid and south-west regions. The improved knowledge gained through his work has contributed to the better management of this high-profile bird species. Mr Dawson's enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication to his public service work are of the highest standard.

return to top

Organisational culture for integrity

Strong leadership creates a healthy organisational culture where ethical behaviour is promoted and unethical conduct is discouraged and prevented.

The public sector continues to promote an organisational culture for integrity across the state. Most 2015 EPS respondents agreed their workplace actively encourages ethical behaviour (89%) and supervisors demonstrate honesty and integrity (85%).

Promoting ethical behaviour

Every public authority faces unique ethical challenges based on the nature of its workplace, stakeholders and services. This includes ensuring integrity principles are consistently applied across the state and risks specific to geographical locations are identified and mitigated.

A range of strategies to promote an ethical culture were reported through the

2015 public sector entity survey (PSES) and an inaugural integrity and conduct survey (ICS) targeted at local governments, public universities and government trading enterprises.

Promoting the employee code of conduct was the most common strategy to embed ethical behaviour, often as part of an employee induction program. This works well in raising awareness, with 88% of respondents to the 2015 EPS indicating familiarity with the Commissioner's Instruction No. 7 – Code of Ethics and 93% with their agency code of conduct, similar to previous years. Employees in regional locations were more likely to report awareness of their employee code of conduct and the Code of Ethics, suggesting that entities ensure integrity promotion activities are conducted across all their staff locations.

Authorities reported they had used a range of other strategies to promote ethical behaviour throughout the year. For example, the:

  • Department of Fire and Emergency Services conducted customised awareness and 'pitfall avoidance' sessions across fire stations
  • Metropolitan Cemeteries Board conducts an annual misconduct survey that examines workplace culture, operational strategies and management environment
  • Kimberley Development Commission discussed and reflected on cases of misconduct in the public domain to inform prevention strategies
  • Department of Aboriginal Affairs demonstrated transparency by circulating committee decisions to all staff
  • Department of Planning displayed core organisational values on computer screen savers.

Staff performance meetings provide another avenue for reaffirming appropriate behaviour. In the 2015 EPS, less than half of respondents (42%) reported their performance meetings had discussed conduct. In the 2015 ICS, less than two-fifths (39%) reported these meetings involved reminding employees of behavioural expectations. Local governments were most likely to report they discuss employee behaviour at manager meetings or with all staff.

This creates an opportunity for more public authorities to regularly reinforce expected standards of behaviour through direct engagement with staff.

Accountable and ethical decision making

Public authorities operate in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing context across a number of locations. As a result, prescriptive models of behaviour cannot possibly cover every situation employees face in the workplace. Instead, modern workplaces generally emphasise broad organisational values and principles.

Within this context, the AEDM program encourages participants to consider the alignment of their personal values with expected standards of conduct and build their capacity to manage a variety of issues through sound decision making.

AEDM program participation rates remained relatively high across the public sector in 2015, with 70% of employees reportedly having undertaken the program in the last five years. There remains room to improve on staff completion or refresher rates, and a refresher session has been developed for authorities wishing to revisit key AEDM messages with employees who have previously completed the full program.

The AEDM program has also been customised for government boards and committees and is designed to be delivered by board chairs.

return to top

Systems, policies and processes for integrity

A comprehensive statutory framework supports senior leaders in embedding an ethical culture across the state and creates opportunities for public authorities to determine their own governance systems.

From 1 July 2015, the integrity landscape has changed under the revised Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003. Notifications of suspected minor misconduct will be made to the Public Sector Commission, and notifications about serious and police misconduct will continue to be made to the Corruption and Crime Commission. The Public Sector Commission will assume responsibility for misconduct education and prevention, and will continue to support chief executives to make informed decisions about notifications and to promote integrity within their authorities.

On 28 April 2015, the Hon. John McKechnie QC commenced as the fourth Corruption and Crime Commissioner of Western Australia. The following article provides insights into the approach that is being taken and priorities in the new integrity landscape.

Commissioner McKechnie (third from left) and his new Corporate Executive team.

The Hon. John McKechnie QC – In his own words

What's your vision for your agency's role in relation to corruption and misconduct management over the next five years?

We have taken the time to evaluate the way we do business. Moving forward we are taking a more strategic, targeted and intelligence-led approach to exposing serious misconduct and corruption in the public sector.

The Corruption and Crime Commission's job, as I see it, is to bring to the attention of the Government and public sector heads, the systematic corruption and serious misconduct risks threatening the integrity and viability of the state, so that they can make the appropriate changes.

How is the transition of minor misconduct functions to the Public Sector Commission assisting public authorities?

It was clearly the intent of government to focus the considerable powers of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) on the most serious public sector matters and on WA Police misconduct. The change allows us to focus our energies in that direction whilst remaining connected to Public Sector Commission intelligence about lower level misconduct matters across the sector.

The Public Sector Commission already has 'runs on the board' in relation to promoting the Code of Ethics, effective discipline processes and other human resources issues. Well established capability development initiatives and education programs are also in place, so it makes sense to align these.

How will your agency contribute to improving the integrity of public authorities?

We set our own 'terms of reference' in how we go about improving the integrity of the sector. We decide the matters we will investigate and report upon.

Our guiding principles will be: is there a significant risk to the state, either the state finances or what I call the body politic, the electoral part of the state, or a systemic problem within the public sector, and will the conduct disclose a serious abuse of office?

We are aiming to look at such matters in a more timely way, and report back to the sector and Parliament about them in a more timely way. I don't think the CCC has always been as timely as it should be, but I am determined that we should actually do things more or less in real time.

How do you see your leadership role in relation to integrity in public authorities?

I don't think the CCC is the main corruption prevention agency in Western Australia – leaders of public authorities are. Corruption and misconduct prevention is a part of good management and everyone's responsibility.

The CCC is uniquely placed to shine a light on key issues and risks and highlight the importance of the integrity agenda. Corruption for us is not in a little box, it is for all public sector leaders to manage their organisations in a way that prevents corruption. The best way to do that, of course, is to design your governance systems so risks are minimised. If you have risky systems, you run the risk of corruption.

Ethical codes

Standards guiding employee behaviour are contained in legislation and policy, including the Code of Ethics and staff codes of conduct, as well as in complementary policy such as human resources and customer service policies. Standards for employee behaviour also guide the fair and consistent application of business processes and delivery of services to the community.

In the 2015 PSES and 2015 ICS, almost all authorities reported having an employee code of conduct in place. Government boards and committees were least likely to report a code of conduct (78%) however many of these indicated they were supported by their department's policies and processes.

In addition to codes of conduct, public authorities reported a number of systems, policies and processes guiding employee behaviour, such as:

  • processes for pre-employment checks, including psychometric, working with children, criminal history and qualifications checks
  • registers for delegations, conflicts of interest, gifts and benefits, secondary employment and media contact
  • policies for managing disciplinary processes, grievances, bullying and substandard performance
  • processes for reporting suspected unethical behaviour.

return to top

Public sector standards

Under the Public Sector Management Act 1994, human resource standards are established to ensure fairness and accountability in matters of employment, grievance resolution, performance management, redeployment, termination and discipline.

In the 2015 EPS, respondents who were aware of the standards were asked whether they believed there had been a breach in their workplace over the year. Of these:

  • 5% (representing 276 employees) believed there had been a breach and had raised it
  • 7% believed there had been a breach and had taken no action
  • less than 1% had lodged a breach of standard claim.

Table 2.1 shows a small number of breach claims (236) were lodged across all standards in 2014/15 (compared to 206 last year). This continues to represent very few breach claims across the public sector workforce.

Table 2.1 Outcomes of breach claims against public sector standards, 2014/15


Total claims

Claims resolved internally

Claims reviewed by the Commission

No breach


Other outcome(a)













Grievance resolution







Performance management




























(a) Other outcomes represent 'withdrawn', 'declined' and 'conciliation'.

Sources: PSES and claims processed by the Commission

return to top

Previous chapter: The WA public sector

Next chapter: Ethical conduct – Upholding appropriate behaviour


Page last updated 18 November 2015