26 September 2023

Robodebt Report sets out PS roles

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The Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme’s report has made various findings about the conduct, roles and responsibilities of individual Public Servants involved in the Robodebt Scheme.

The Commission announced that a centralised inquiry mechanism had been established to inquire into alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by employees of the Australian Public Service (APS), former APS employees and Agency Heads arising from the Royal Commission.

“The Public Service Act 1999 empowers the APS Commissioner to conduct inquiries into alleged breaches of the APS Code of Conduct by Agency Heads, APS employees, and former APS employees,” the Royal Commission said.

“The establishment of this process under these powers is designed to ensure these alleged breaches are assessed in a robust, independent and fair manner,” it said.

The Royal Commission said that among powers under the Public Service Act it could strengthen the professionalism of the APS and uphold high standards of integrity and conduct within the APS.

“Under the Public Service Act, Agency Heads are able to request that the APS Commissioner inquire into and determine whether a current or former APS employee has breached the Code,” the Royal Commissioner said.

It said that to conduct the inquiries, the APS Commissioner would appoint an Independent Reviewer to inquire into and determine whether an APS employee referred by Agency Heads to the centralised inquiry process had breached the Code of Conduct.

It said the Independent Reviewer would be supported by a Taskforce established within the APSC to exercise review powers under the Public Service Act in relation to the APS Code of Conduct.

“It does not replicate or preclude the functions of other enquiry and integrity bodies,” the Royal Commission said.

It said it had submitted relevant parts of an additional sealed chapter to other professional and disciplinary bodies and Code of Conduct inquiries could occur at the same time that the bodies are undertaking their own investigations.

The Royal Committee said decisions about the employment arrangements for Public Service employees identified in the Royal Commission report was a matter for their current employer.

“Agency Heads can take action before a formal investigation has started or concluded,” it said.

“In considering the most appropriate action, the employer needs to properly consider a number of factors including the information provided in the report and the seriousness of the allegations, as well as the particular circumstances of the individual’s employment including their current roles and responsibilities.

“The APSC and individual Departments and Agencies will not be commenting on the employment arrangements of individuals because, to do so, may inadvertently disclose content contained in the sealed chapter or risk prejudicing ongoing inquiries.”

Publications released by the Royal Commission can be accessed at this PS News link.

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