26 September 2023

Assembly calls for review of PS harassment

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The Legislative Assembly has called for an external review into fraud, harassment and sexual harassment across the ACT Public Service.

The recommendation in the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services Inquiry into Annual and Financial Reports 2020-2021 follows a 75 per cent increase in reports of bullying or harassment since 2018-19, up from 356 to 623.

Tabling its Report, the Committee said it was told that the number 623 was a combination of all the possible reporting mechanisms – “one instance could be reported multiple times.”

“The Committee was advised that due to the confidential nature of the reporting, it was not possible to ascertain from year to year the level of multiple reporting of harassment,” the Committee said.

“Therefore, year to year comparisons are difficult,” it said.

“Only 12 cases made their way through for formal investigation, of which six involved sexual harassment.”

The Committee also noted an increase in the number of misconduct cases referred to the Professional Standards Unit (PSU), up from 65 to 92.

“The Committee was told that the increase in cases could indicate that there were a number of respondents in any one particular matter,” it said.

“The Committee also asked about the number of fraud and corruption cases reported within Chief Minister, Treasury, and Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD), as distinct to the whole of the service.”

It said the Senior Executive Responsible for Business Integrity and Risk received 12 allegations of fraud and corruption, six in relation to CMTEDD staff and six external to the Directorate.

“The Committee recommends that an external review into fraud, harassment and sexual harassment across the ACTPS be conducted, with a report back to the Legislative Assembly by the final sitting week of 2022,” the Committee said.

Among a total of 22 recommendations, the Committee also highlighted the need to increase female representation at WorkSafe ACT.

It said the Territory’s State of the Service report stated that “the ACTPS continues to ensure measures are taken to promote gender equality within the Service”.

However, the Committee said WorkSafe’s Annual Report listed the gender breakdown in the inspectorate as one-quarter female and three-quarters male.

“The ACT Government should develop a workforce plan to increase female representation at WorkSafe ACT,” it recommended.

The Committee’s 32-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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