6 ingredients you need for organisational integrity and ethical governance

Our recent Integrity in the Public Sector Forum 2015 has some key takeaways from one of our keynote speakers, Dr. Simon Longstaff AO, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in NSW.

Below are the 6 key ingredients for establishing a culture of integrity and ethical governance:

  1. Commitment from the top
    This can be tricky because of the corrosive impact of the political process; it falls onto senior public sector leaders being able to shield their organisations from that corrosion.

  2. Systems and policy alignment.
    Assure that the people in your organisation are actually being given the right signals.

    Leaders need to remember that that they will be judged on not only by what they say and do, but also on the embedded systems and structures within the organisation they are responsible for.

    For example, there was an ongoing problem within the financial advisory services industry wherein staff were rewarded for volume of sales, not whether they were selling the correct product for the consumer.

  3. Delegate authority
    The inclination to create a world in which no one can choose to do anything wrong often inadvertently leads to a system where no one can choose to do anything right! If we don’t practice making choices, then we lose the capacity to do so.

  4. Give reasons for decisions when they have ethical grounds
    In many cases, we need to move beyond the usual ‘economic’ rationales for decisions, and describe the ethical framework that influenced such decisions.

    If we don’t provide the reasons for a decision, then people will impose their own assumptions of the reasons behind them, which will probably portray our organisation in the worst possible light.

  5. Open communication
    There needs to be a culture that does not just consist of just whistle-blowing; a culture where people feel comfortable to say: “we stand for this – but we keep doing that”.

    People need to feel confident that they will not be ‘shot’ for expressing their concerns.

  6. Adopt a long term view
    There is no conceivable way that problems exposed by integrity agencies will be quickly and easily remedied. Remember that it will take time and that there will be costs.

Building the capacity, integrity and reputation of the public sector in Victoria