Interview with Olivia Kings, IBAC Public Sector Engagement Manager

Olivia KingsHow does your work support IBAC’s mission/vision?

The Public Sector Engagement team plays an important part in fulfilling IBAC’s functions to expose and prevent corruption by developing and sharing information and resources to help the Victorian public sector build capacity to become more resistant to corruption. 

How does your team support IBAC’s prevention role?

The Public Sector Engagement team plays an important part in fulfilling IBAC’s prevention role and we do this by:

  • engaging with Victorian public sector organisations (including at senior executive levels) to raise awareness of IBAC’s role in Victoria’s integrity system and the importance of preventing corruption
  • developing and delivering activities to raise corruption reporting levels across the Victorian public sector
  • supporting Protected Disclosure Coordinators to implement Victoria’s PD regime
  • developing tools and resources to share key findings and learnings from IBAC’s operations and strategic research.

What are some of the key challenges in your work?

The size of our jurisdiction can be challenging. There are more than 3000 Victorian public sector agencies, covering nearly 300,000 public sector employees. Our jurisdiction covers all departments, agencies, local councils, judiciary and parliament. This includes schools and school councils, hospitals, land management groups, TAFEs, and a whole lot more. Getting our messages out to such a wide jurisdiction can sometimes seem daunting but the digital environment provides a wealth of opportunities to devise clever ways of getting our information out there.

What were the main public sector activities delivered by IBAC in the last six months?

Our team supported the roll-out of new mandatory notification reporting obligations under the IBAC Act that started in December 2016.  That was a complex project, requiring a range of stakeholder consultation and resources. We also updated and refreshed our online protected disclosure e-learning module, which is available to all Protected Disclosure Coordinators and others with a supporting role in the Victorian public sector. We also delivered our annual Protected Disclosure Coordinator Forum in May this year. 

Last month, we convened a one-day corruption prevention and integrity insights forum in Wangaratta, with our integrity agency partners, Victorian Ombudsman, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, and with Victoria Police and the Department of Education and Training. 

We also supported several other public sector engagement activities with a wide variety of agencies in Victoria.

What are the main challenges public sector organisations face in strengthening corruption resilience?

Developing a strong culture of integrity is absolutely essential for any organisation to strengthen their corruption resilience. Time and time again we see examples of where organisations have strong integrity related policies and procedures, but these are not followed because it’s ‘not the way we do things around here’ or they are circumvented for expediency. Some of these failings can seem small at the time, but can build over time and be symptomatic of organisations where serious wrongdoing is not detected or challenged. Robust policies and procedures are important, but it’s just as important to have a strong culture of integrity where employees understand the standards and obligations expected of the public sector.

A related challenge is to encourage reporting. It’s really important for staff to feel that they can speak up if they suspect wrongdoing, and for those complaints to be dealt with properly without fear of retribution.  Creating that culture of ‘safe reporting’ can be challenging, but is vital if the Victorian public sector is to prevent corrupt behaviour. The Protected Disclosure regime encourages people to speak up and report suspected wrongdoing by offering legal protection.

What are the main projects coming up in IBAC’s PSE space?

We’ve got a number of really exciting projects underway. As well as supporting our CEO Alistair Maclean at a large number of engagements (seven alone in August!), we’re also in the final stages of organising a two-day Corruption Prevention and Integrity Conference in October.

We are developing new fora and resources to support Protected Disclosure Coordinators and will develop more corruption prevention tools and resources for the Victorian public sector. We will deliver more events in regional Victoria over the next 12 months, and undertake further work to support implementation of the mandatory notifications legislative requirements.