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Strengthening Integrity: Insights from DJSIR Executive Forums

16 Jan 2024

In a proactive move toward fostering integrity within the public sector, the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Resources (DJSIR) recently hosted Executive Forums over two days in November 2023, focusing on the theme ‘Integrity in Focus’. 

Facilitated by IPAA Victoria and the Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC), the forums provided a platform for senior executives and leaders to engage in crucial discussions about maintaining integrity in their roles. The distinguished line-up of speakers included Mr Tim Ada, Secretary, DJSIR, Ms Brigid Monagle, VPSC Commissioner, former Secretary Mr Richard Bolt, and Ms Jane Brockington, Principal Bridging Policy and Practice. The forums aimed to address the growing attention on, and scrutiny of, the public sector and its leaders while emphasising the pivotal role of integrity in building and sustaining public trust.

Mr Ada set the tone by reflecting on the evolving landscape of the public sector, acknowledging the heightened scrutiny faced by executives. He stressed the importance of introspection, urging executives to consider how they discharge their duties with integrity as a cornerstone of public trust. Mr Ada highlighted three key areas where integrity manifests within the department: through responsive processes, policy content, and leadership actions that set standards for staff and the community. The release of the Integrity Statement by the Victorian Secretaries Board in November 2023 provided a timely backdrop for these discussions. It offered a framework for conversations among executives and staff, fostering a collective commitment to upholding integrity within the public sector.

Ms Monagle delved into the intricacies of the Westminster System of Government, reiterating the roles of Ministers, Secretaries, public servants, and Ministerial Office staff. Emphasising the Public Service’s adherence to the Code of Conduct and values enshrined in the Public Administration Act 2004, Ms Monagle underscored the need for frank and fearless advice as an integral aspect of responsiveness. Ms Monagle emphasised that ministers and ministerial staff also adhere to a code of conduct, reinforcing that ministerial advisors cannot direct the public service in performing its duties.

Mr Bolt shared insights into navigating challenges at the highest level, emphasising the positive impact of transparency when navigating Freedom of Information requests and ensuring Cabinet in Confidence material is appropriately managed.

Key takeaways from the forums included the prioritisation of documentation in recording decisions and advice and seeking instructions in writing. Executives were encouraged to build positive relationships with ministerial offices, fostering an environment conducive to providing difficult yet necessary advice. Additionally, creating a positive culture that supports and encourages staff to speak up when integrity issues arise emerged as a crucial aspect of maintaining integrity within the sector. Executives valued this opportunity to reflect on their daily decision-making processes, reconfirming their commitment to providing impartial advice while aligning with the government’s priorities.

IPAA Victoria would like to thank DJSIR, VPSC, Mr Bolt, and Ms Brockington for their valuable contributions to this initiative as IPAA Victoria continues to support the public purpose sector build capabilities under the Strategic Theme of Trust, Integrity and Dialogue. The Executive Forums demonstrate ongoing commitment to strengthening integrity within the public sector, and ensuring its resilience and effectiveness in serving the community.