Victorian public sector

Victorian public sector employees' perceptions of corruption 2022

Summary of key insights

Theme

Key findings

Opportunities

Perceptions about corruption as a problem in the workplace

  • Worse among employees working in emergency services, transport and health sectors
  • Prioritise these sectors for information

Behaviours most likely to be a ‘high risk’

  • Favouritism/nepotism
  • Breach of professional boundaries (bullying and harassment)
  • Prioritise these behaviours for education and prevention and detection activities

Offering or accepting gifts or benefits over $50

  • Most understand their responsibilities
  • Medium risk of being offered or accepted from suppliers
  • Continued reminders about responsibilities and monitor higher risk work functions (eg procurement, recruitment)

Organisational ethical culture

  • Most see the workplace culture as at least ‘moderately’ ethical and coming from the top
  • Most rate their organisational vulnerability as ‘moderate’
  • Regular monitoring of ethical health and integrity indicators
  • Ensure leaders ‘set the tone from the top’

Reporting corruption and misconduct

  • Most would report and think it would be taken seriously
  • Most would report to their immediate manager
  • Some want more training/education
  • Review/improve organisational prevention education
  • Ensure people managers understand their role and complaint handling processes to follow

Awareness and understanding of IBAC

  • Many are aware of IBAC, but few have a good understanding of what IBAC does
  • Information mainly from media reporting
  • Raise awareness of other ways to find out about IBAC (eg website, prevention resources, website)

Prevalence of corruption and misconduct

Most Victorian public sector employees agree that they ‘know what behaviour constitutes corruption’.

Eighty-nine per cent agree that they ‘know what behaviour constitutes corruption’, with 48 per cent strongly agreeing.Eighty-nine per cent agree that they ‘know what behaviour constitutes corruption’, with 48 per cent strongly agreeing. 
This result is significantly higher compared to the findings from the 2016 survey of Victorian public sector employees (79% strongly agree + agree).

Victorian public sector employees are more likely to believe corruption is a problem in the state of Victoria compared to within their specific workplace.

Perceptions that corruption happens and is a problem in Victoria, as well as within the workplaces of survey participants, have increased significantly since 2016.

In 2022, six in 10 employees (61%) agree that corruption is a problem in Victoria, fewer (20%) agree that it is a problem in their workplace. The exception is emergency services and transport workers, where significantly more agree that corruption is a problem in their workplace (47% and 34% respectively).

In 2022, six in 10 employees (61%) agree that corruption is a problem in Victoria, fewer (20%) agree that it is a problem in their workplace. The exception is emergency services and transport workers, where significantly more agree that corruption is a problem in their workplace (47% and 34% respectively).

Graph 1. Agreement with statements about corruption in Victoria (%)

Corruption or misconduct risks facing the public sector include conflicts of interest and privacy breaches.

Victorian public sector employees were asked to nominate the most significant corruption or misconduct risks facing their organisation. A little over half of respondents identified at least one risk. The key risks identified included a conflict of interest, bribery or fraud, or political interference. Comments also focus on breaches of confidentiality, impropriety in recruitment and procurement, as well as bullying and harassment.

Favouritism or nepotism and a breach of professional boundaries are the behaviours considered to be a ‘high risk’ of occurring (32% and 30% respectively).

Favouritism or nepotism and a breach of professional boundaries are the behaviours considered to be a ‘high risk’ of occurring (32% and 30% respectively).Close to a third (32%) of Victorian public sector employees say there is a ‘high risk’ of breaching professional boundaries or playing favourites at work. Managers are more likely to believe the risk of these behaviours occurring to be higher. This is also the case for emergency services and front-line workers. 

Overall, the perceived likelihood or risks associated with breaches of professional boundaries has increased significantly in 2022 (74% - medium or high risk) compared to in 2019 (67%). 

Human resources management is the function within an organisation where the risk of improper behaviours is considered greatest (17% consider it is a ‘high risk’). However, perceived risks associated with asset management have increased in 2022 (30% ‘high’ or ‘medium’ risk) compared to 2019 (25% ‘high’ or ‘medium’ risk).

Graph 2. Likelihood or risk of improper behaviours occurring by an individual (%)

Human resources management is the function within an organisation where the risk of improper behaviours is considered greatest (17% consider it is a ‘high risk’). However, perceived risks associated with asset management have increased in 2022 (30% ‘high’ or ‘medium’ risk) compared to 2019 (25% ‘high’ or ‘medium’ risk).

Most Victorian public sector employees have not suspected or observed improper behaviours.

Favouritism or nepotism is the improper behaviour that Victorian public sector employees were most likely to suspect occurred within their organisation in the past 12 months (28%), while more than one in five employees (22%) claim to have personally observed a breach of professional boundaries. Between 77 and 86 per cent of Victorian public sector employees reported they neither suspected nor observed many other serious forms of improper behaviour within their organisation, such as fraud, theft, bribery, or extortion.

Employees working within some sectors of the Victorian public sector reported a significantly higher incidence of ‘suspecting’ or ‘personally observing’ each of the improper behaviours: employees working in emergency services, health (except for collusion) and front-line service delivery workers. 

 

A little over half of Victorian public sector employees (54%) think there is a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk of employees in procurement being offered gifts from suppliers worth over $50. Half (49%) see the same level of risk in gifts being accepted.

Graph 3. Suspicion or observations of improper behaviours (%)

Risks also lie in dealings with business.

A little over half of Victorian public sector employees (54%) think there is a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk of employees in procurement being offered gifts from suppliers worth over $50. Half (49%) see the same level of risk in gifts being accepted. 

Employees in corporate support or policy/ program development, as well as employees working within metropolitan Melbourne, are significantly more likely to consider the risk to be higher. 

The perceived risk that public sector employees would ask for a gift is much lower (27% ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk).

The perceived risk that public sector employees would ask for a gift is much lower (27% ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk).

Graph 4. Likelihood or risk of improper behaviours occurring between a business organisation and the public sector (%)

Perceptions of the ethical culture of the organisation have not changed amongst Victorian public sector employees compared to 2019.

Most Victorian public sector employees (84%) describe the ethical culture of the organisation as ‘strong’ (44%) or ‘moderate’ (40%). The remaining 16 per cent rate the ethical culture as ‘weak’, rising to 44 per cent among those in emergency services.

Graph 5. Ethical culture of the oranisation (%)

In 2022, most Victorian public sector employees (84%) describe the ethical culture of the organisation as ‘strong’ (44%) or ‘moderate’ (40%). The remaining 16 per cent rate the ethical culture as ‘weak’, rising to 44 per cent among those in emergency services. 

By comparison, 85 per cent rated the ethical culture as ‘strong’ or ‘moderate’ in 2019.

The ethical culture (be that ‘strong’ or ‘weak’) is perceived to ‘come from the top’ and is underpinned by management.

Victorian public sector employees identified reasons for how they rated the ethical culture at their organisation. Among those who feel their culture is ‘strong’, comments often mention transparency, open discussions, and modelling of the required behaviours by management. Those who rate the ethical culture of their organisation as ‘weak’ describe management adherence to ethical values or response to problems as ‘lip service’.

Those who rate the ethical culture of their organisation as ‘weak’ describe management adherence to ethical values or response to problems as ‘lip service’.

Graph 6. Organisational vulnerability to corruption and misconduct (%)

Reporting corruption and misconduct

Most employees believe a report of corruption would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be taken seriously.
Would a report of corruption be taken seriously? Definitely down to 35%, Probably up to 26%, Possibly steady at 19%, No up to 9%, Don't know up to 12%

Around one third (35%) of employees are ‘definite’ that a report of corruption would be taken seriously, a further quarter (26%) think such a report would ‘probably’ be taken seriously. The percentage who believes a report would ‘definitely’ be taken seriously has significantly decreased in 2022 (35%) compared to 2019 (47%). Employees working in emergency services (27%) and health (12%) are significantly more likely to believe a report would not be taken seriously (9%).

Among those who believe a report would not be taken seriously, views are that reports about senior management are treated less seriously (48%) or that senior management do not behave in line with their organisation’s values (42%).

Graph 7. Would a report
of corruption be
taken seriously (%)

Most employees ‘strongly agree’ they would report misconduct and be supported to do so.

More than four fifths of Victorian public sector employees (83%) ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they would report corruption or misconduct if personally observed. This has significantly increased compared to 2016 (72%).

Employees in health and emergency services are significantly less likely to agree they would report corruption or misconduct (79% and 73% agree that they would). 

Overall, fewer Victorian public sector employees (64%) agree that they know how to report corruption or misconduct and 61 per cent agree they would only report corruption or misconduct ‘if I knew my report would be anonymous’.

The most likely channel of reporting would be to an immediate manager (68%), to IBAC (36%), or to designated staff (35%) or human resources (31%) at the organisation.

More than four fifths of Victorian public sector employees (83%) ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they would report corruption or misconduct if personally observed. This has significantly increased compared to 2016 (72%).

Graph 8. Agreement with statements regarding corruption and misconduct

Most employees feel their organisation is at least adequately improving integrity.

At least a third of Victorian public sector employees rate their organisation’s performance as ‘very well’ when it comes to ‘ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place’ (37%) and ‘ensuring an ethical culture’ (33%). As many consider their organisation’s performance in these areas to be ‘adequate’. The remainder (23% and 31% respectively) believe their organisation does not do enough (or they ‘don’t know’). Emergency services workers, human resources workers, and those in front-line service delivery are more likely to consider their organisation does not do enough.

At least a third of Victorian public sector employees rate their organisation’s performance as ‘very well’ when it comes to ‘ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place’ (37%) and ‘ensuring an ethical culture’ (33%).

Graph 9. Organisational performance in improving integrity and preventing corruption (%)

Victorian public sector employees were asked to nominate one thing that their organisation could do better to reduce risks of corrupt conduct occurring. Among those that provided a response, themes raised include increased training and education, better access to resources, management to ‘lead from the top’, and increased transparency and accountability resulting from investigations.

Demographics

40% of participants were Front-line service delivery people, Sex

Male: 35%; Female: 52%;
Prefer to self-describe: 1%

Age

Under 40 years old: 23%

Geographical location

Work in metropolitan Melbourne: 61%The survey took place across many facets of VPS, with the highest level of participation coming from Health (at 31%) and Environment and resource management (at 22%)
Work in regional Victoria: 32%

Years of service

Up to 5 years working in the public sector: 26%
More than 20 years in the public sector: 25%

Seniority

Total managers: 37%

About the survey

In May 2022, a variety of communication channels were used to promote an online survey to employees working in a state government department or Victorian public sector agency. Direct communications were sent to the nine state government departments, as well as 94 other major public sector agencies, particularly from the health, transport, and education sectors. Senior leaders were requested to share the link and encourage their staff to participate. In total, 4,405 Victorian public sector employees completed a survey between 5-27 May 2022.

Where possible, the findings from the 2022 survey have been compared with the IBAC surveys of the Victorian Public Sector undertaken in 2019 and 2016. It is important to note that while some questions were retained, the questionnaire structure was updated in 2022, meaning results may not be directly comparable.

At the time the 2022 survey fieldwork was underway, there was media reporting relating to IBAC and several major operations. This may have impacted on some of the perceptions reported by participants in the surveys.