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Managing Corrupt Conduct During COVID-19

August 7, 2020

In his COVID-19 message earlier this year, exiting NSW Ombudsman Michael Barnes stated that the rule of law, norms of reasoned decision-making, and respect for human rights do not become optional, even in times of crisis. In the current time when extraordinary measures are being taken by public authorities to keep us all safe, it is even more important to encourage people to come forward if they have knowledge of wrongdoing.

In its recent report on managing corrupt conduct during COVID-19, ICAC has also highlighted new corruption and fraud risks that are associated with periods of disruption and economic downturn. Some of these risks include:

The report also drew attention to the risks associated with working from home and recommended that agencies consider the following ways to address these risks.

Managers should make occasional telephone or video conference contact with their staff. Complete isolation from management and team norms can breed absenteeism and lapses in judgement
Prohibit staff from allowing family members to use agency hardware and systems and ask staff to refrain from using their home printer for confidential agency documents
Remind staff not to use social media to post photographs of their home office or work station
Make a record of agency IT equipment and other valuables that staff have borrowed to use from home
Establish protocols for using electronic signatures, especially if staff are used to papers forms and giving approval by applying a written signature

Most public officials are acutely aware that the citizens of NSW are relying on their honesty and diligence in the current environment. In this challenging and constantly evolving environment, we all need to be live to corruption and fraud risks, and to know when and how to report wrongdoing.

You can encourage staff to report wrongdoing by reminding them of:

  • The value of reporting wrongdoing
  • Where to access your PID policy
  • How to report a PID internally and externally
  • Who they can contact if they have any questions

How Centium Can Help

Our expert team, which includes senior governance specialists, lawyers and former Deputy NSW Ombudsman Chris Wheeler, can review your internal reporting and complaint handling systems to ensure their compliance with legislation and best practice. We can also investigate current PIDs and analyse previously received PIDs to identify systemic issues that may require improvement and/or training opportunities for frontline staff and complaint recipients. We also provide an anonymous whistleblower service.

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