Pressure to act quickly creates corruption risks during times of emergency or crisis

Regional webinar November 2020

Local councils and other public sector agencies based in regional Victoria discussed the pressures they faced over the past few years in dealing with the twin crises of bushfires and the pandemic during IBAC's recent Corruption Prevention & Integrity Insights Regional Forum.

Presenters from Murrindindi Shire Council and Goulburn-Murray Water shared their experiences of corruption vulnerabilities, and how pressures from multiple sources (politicians, business, community) to act quickly created corruption vulnerabilities.

Participants discussed how corporate governance structures were not always sufficiently robust to deal with rapid and large increases to budgets and extra workforce personnel needed to tackle a crisis; in these instances, it's not uncommon for agencies to revert to paper-based record management due to the need to quickly get things done and where the electronic systems are not available. This presents risks to proper processes, good record keeping and other corruption preventing actions.

Another issue raised was the importance of mental health as a corruption prevention tool – decision making may be compromised due to external factors during times of crisis, so ensuring employees are well supported will help avoid taking shortcuts in how they make decisions.

A key theme raised was how important it is for councils to maintain their business-as-usual activities, particularly with regard to their corruption control mechanisms during the rebuild and recovery phase; a time where councils can be at extra risk as they 'relax' in response to the immediacy of the crisis. Participants also emphasised the importance of organisational structure to ensure public sector agencies have the right people in the right positions to safeguard and oversight integrity.

This year's forum was offered as an online webinar for participants. The focus was on corruption vulnerabilities during times of crises, and ways in which public sector agencies can strengthen their prevention strategies, and included a panel discussion with representatives from IBAC, the Victorian Ombudsman and the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner.

Watch a recording of the webinar, including the presentations by Murrindindi Shire Council and Goulburn-Murray Water.

IBAC provides information sheets on how state government and local government agencies can identify corruption risks, red flags and put in place prevention measures to help minimise risks during emergencies and crisis situations.

About the Corruption Prevention & Integrity Insights Regional Forum

IBAC's engagement with our stakeholders is integral to our corruption and prevention work.

IBAC's bi-annual Corruption Prevention & Integrity Insights Regional Forum brings together CEOs, senior leaders, and managers with an integrity role from local and state government agencies to hear the latest tips and advice on building integrity, and to network with peers across the region.