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Liars, social media pests to face sack in new public service code

Changes to the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct could give bosses power to punish staff over misbehaviour on social media.

Changes to the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct could give bosses power to punish staff over misbehaviour on social media. Photo: David Paul Morris

Federal public servants who lied their way into their jobs could face the sack under a shake-up of the bureaucracy's disciplinary code.

Changes to the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct will also extend bosses' power to punish staff for off-the-job misbehaviour, including conduct on Twitter and Facebook.

But federal authorities say the Public Service Amendment Act 2013, which comes into force in July, will not regulate the private lives of public servants.

A new clause will make employees liable if they have not acted with ''honesty and integrity'' during the hiring process, according to official advice from the Australian Public Service Commission's group service manager, Karin Fisher.

Employees can now be disciplined for ''misconduct action to be taken where a person has provided false or misleading information in connection with their engagement as an APS employee, i.e. pre-commencement misconduct'', according to the advice.

The code of conduct will now apply ''in connection with the employee's employment, rather than only in the course of employment''.

''This is designed to give agencies greater clarity and confidence when considering suspected breaches of the code which occur outside work hours and away from the conventional workplace,'' Ms Fisher wrote.

''For example, the amendment should provide more certainty when dealing with suspected breaches that occur on work-related travel or training, and will reinforce the need for APS employees to remember the code of conduct when they are, for example, posting comments about their workplace or colleagues on social media forums.

''However, at the same time employees are entitled to a private life and the amendments are not intended to allow the code to regulate every aspect of that private life.''

Bosses would have to prove a genuine link between the workers' job and their behaviour before any punishment could take place.

Sanctions available vary from a simple reprimand through to fines, demotions and dismissal.

The code will also be amended so that public servants must uphold the reputation of their agency and not just the broader service and there will also be service-wide changes to the workplace aimed at promoting ''a high-performance culture''.

The new rules put the onus on departments and agencies to ensure that each employee knows what is expected of them in their work and to see that the performance of each worker is ''effectively managed''.

Meanwhile, Canberra's public servants enjoyed the nation's second-highest wage growth in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Average hourly wages in the federal and territory sectors rose 3.8 per cent, compared with 4 per cent for West Australian bureaucrats.

24 comments

  • Screening for pre-commencement misconduct was quite thorough entering the fed APS as a graduate, at least for me. I think it is good they are coming down on it, as they should. There are too many costly middle and senior managers who have become complacent in their roles. It needs to be reviewed and downsized. I seriously do not know how they won their positions. I guess this article explains that.

    Commenter
    Surrealist
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 7:00AM
    • Totally agree, in my four years as an EL1 I saw incompetence, laziness and general pisstaking on a massive scale by EL2s and SES. In my last department there is so much bloating in the exec levels they could sack most of them and notice the difference, because it's the lower levels that do the real work while the managers go from pointless, useless meeting to even more pointless, useless meeting, then they come out and write reports on how to write reports. There is no way any of these bludgers would get jobs in the private sector. But who makes the decisions about staffing cuts? Oh, that's right.... they do.

      Commenter
      maisiegorton
      Date and time
      May 17, 2013, 4:42AM
  • Goodness this is revolutionary in the 'public service'. First paying for their parking like everyone else, then being expected to be honest.

    Whatever might be next.....expecting them to be competent at what they do or expecting a reasonable days work from them?

    I await with bated breath.

    Commenter
    bob smith
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 8:05AM
    • Public Sector stereotype comment #60245 - Yawn!

      Commenter
      ACT
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 1:19PM
    • I am currently dealing with a government department who's work ethic I am beginning to question; they have taken months to complete basic paperwork that should be done in a matter of weeks. This has cost me lost revenue and lost clients because of the delays. Incompetence is at all levels of government, these people should be the most accountable for their work time but they are not.

      Commenter
      Discustard
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 2:31PM
    • Actually, it is the people brought in from outside, the non-public servants, who are likely to be liars and cheats. I have personally witnessed IT contractors overstating their qualifications/experience/industry endorsement, and they largely get away with it. I sacked 2 of them personally.
      Private companies are worse, promising on their mothers beating hearts they will deliver xyz, then bleeding all and sundry dry of funds while being incompetent in the extreme.
      And no, this is not unusual.
      Public Servants in my experience are by and large honest and hardworking folks, with the unfortunate overhead of carrying a LOT of truly dud middle managers (and management is where the spin and lies emanate from too, same as private enterprise.).

      Commenter
      Truthy
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 3:47PM
  • Who is going to police this? Ah, there's the rub!

    Commenter
    tim
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 8:29AM
    • Well it's about time that we held people accountable for what they claim during the hiring process. The APS has long been seen as a circus where the "special people" of society go each day to get them out of the house. Time after time jobs go to people who arrive with little or no qualifications,or an impressive list of false ones. .

      Commenter
      RamRod - ACT
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 8:30AM
      • As a retired teacher who was a member of many promotions panels I was amused by the vast number of applications and CV's which made exaggerated claims without any appropriate mechanism for scrutiny. People would gain leadership positions claiming expertise in A,B and C but when in the position admitted they were clueless. Now gaining a promotion is ninety percent mentoring, ingratiating yourself and ten percent ability.

        Commenter
        Eric Olthwaite
        Date and time
        May 16, 2013, 8:39AM
        • If only the Government had a code of conduct for politicians along the same lines as the Public Service, no more slinging matches, no more lies, no more misconduct, how sweet it would be.

          Commenter
          tara
          Date and time
          May 16, 2013, 9:36AM

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