A crackdown on bad public service could be driving a surge of complaints from bureaucrats unhappy with their treatment by their bosses.

A crackdown on bad public service could be driving a surge of complaints from bureaucrats unhappy with their treatment by their bosses. Photo: Louie Douvis

A crackdown on bad public service could be driving a surge of complaints from bureaucrats unhappy with their treatment by their bosses.

The federal bureaucracy's disciplinary umpire, the APS Merit Protection Commissioner, has seen a 26 per cent jump in requests by public service for reviews of disciplinary or ''administrative'' decisions in 2012-13.

But in her annual report, acting commissioner Karin Fisher also says decision-making by public service bosses must improve.

The commissioner's workload this year has included three public servants punished by their departments for bullying their bosses, another for sexually harassing a client and a bureaucrat accused of racial vilification after using words like ''sambo'' and ''the blacks'' in the workplace.

Ms Fisher wrote that 192 public servants asked for mostly disciplinary decisions by their departments or agencies to be reviewed in 2012-13.

Those numbers included a 55 per cent increase in requests for a ''secondary reviews'', appeals of decisions already examined by an agency head or departmental secretary.

''It is unclear what is driving the trend in these applications but it may reflect an increased focus by agencies on actively managing unsatisfactory performance,'' Ms Fisher wrote.

But with 80 per cent of secondary reviews upheld, Ms Fisher was clear on the need for better decision-making at agency level across the public service.

The Merit Protection Commissioner said she was ''concerned'' at the number of agency decisions that had to be overturned because the employee had not been allowed to give their side of the story or where procedures were not followed.