Public Sector Week 2019: Community trust in the public sector

15 Oct 2019
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IPAA Victoria hosted Why Does the Community Trust the Public Sector? on 22 August 2019 as part of Public Sector Week 2019, in partnership with EY. The panel brought together public sector leaders to explore how organisations can enhance public trust and protect their mandate to serve and govern.

Sharing their insights were the Honourable Robert Redlich QC (IBAC Commissioner, Cheryl Batagol PSM (EPA Victoria Chairperson), Dr Paul Grimes PSM (VPSC Commissioner), Hannah Aulby (Centre for Public Integrity),  Clare Payne (Fellow for Trust and Ethics at EY), and Gavin White (Essential Research).

Justice Redlich critiqued the dominant frames of anti-corruption efforts in the media. Justice Redlich stressed that – for at least the last 50 years already – the anti-corruption objective has moved on from simply being about “eliminating bad apples”. Instead, corruption is almost always rooted in organisational structures that are vulnerable to – or actually encourage – breaches of integrity.

Speaking from personal experiences at the EPA Victoria, Ms Batagol emphasised how organisational structure – in particular, culture – can enhance or weaken public trust.

“Ethical leadership and integrity are the basis for good organisational culture but also critical for good community engagement and relations”, said Ms Batagol.

Sharing insights from the VPSC People Matter Survey on staff sentiments in public sector workplaces, Dr Grimes argued that ethical conduct actually enhances staff engagement and work satisfaction. The research suggests that the wellbeing and productivity of public sector workers actually benefit from a strong sense of organisational ethics.

Ms Aulby emphasised the importance of integrity institutions, accountability institutions and governance institutions to protecting the community’s trust in the public sector.

She outlined importance of getting integrity institutions right, particularly with prospects of a national anti-corruption body, stating: “Unless you have a strong national integrity commission, it will actually go some way in diminishing public trust”.

The speakers ultimately shared consensus that trust in the public sector is fragile, and that public sector leaders needed to take proactive measures to build ethical organisational cultures.

The session builds on IPAA Victoria’s commitment to public purpose sector ethical leadership and fostering positive integrity cultures with the Integrity & Ethical Leadership Program (IELP). To find out more, click here.

Written by Judy Kuo, Programs Coordinator, IPAA Victoria