Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

Systems, Policies and Procedures

Heads of agencies need to ensure their agencies have effective systems of governance, employees with the skills and authority to implement those systems of governance, and arrangements to monitor the performance of that governance system. 

Agency systems of governance need to promote transparency, honesty, impartiality and encourage public trust in the system.  A stocktake of ethics in the NSW government sector in 2012 noted:

Agencies need to critically assess all of their systems and policies to check that they are not ‘signalling’ a demand or tolerance for unethical conduct. [1]

For example, written governance policies need to make a clear statement about the importance of governance systems and practices being consistent with the objective, values and principles of the Ethical Framework before outlining elements such as executive structure of the organisation, executive and management roles and responsibilities, and how they are to communicate and interact. 

When designing and assessing their systems, policies and procedures, it is important that those systems, policies and procedures clearly indicate what the agency was established to do (its functions and purposes) and how the agency and its employees are expected to behave when they carry out those functions and purposes (which are specified in the Ethical Framework for the government sector).  In general, systems, policies and procedures should be re-designed to explicitly support the delivery of services to customers and clients in ways that focus on quality while maximising service delivery.

Agencies should also subject their policies to regular reviews at a pre-determined period for currency and continuous improvement purposes.  These reviews provide opportunities to assess whether individual policies are supporting the objective, values and principles of the Ethical Framework.

In addition to encouraging agencies and employees conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with the Ethical Framework, many agencies have changed their policies and work processes in order to reduce the risk of misconduct.   For example, some investigation, procurement and law enforcement functions have implemented measures including rotation of roles, swapping of work partners, changes to procedures for allocation of jobs and clients and increased requirements for transparency.  Also, policy writing guidelines have been developed by some agencies to ensure that ethics is ‘woven into the framework’ of policy and procedures.