The toxic work culture in one area of the Canberra Institute of Technology was well documented in a damning internal report more than a year before a scathing WorkSafe ACT investigation into the education provider triggered ministerial intervention.
Education Minister Chris Bourke said CIT management should have properly addressed bullying and workplace harassment issues in 2010 after completion of the KMR Consulting report into the Tourism and Hotel Management Centre.
The heavily censored report, provided to The Canberra Times under Freedom of Information laws, was quoted in the Work Safety Commissioner's report.
Dated December 2010, the report made similar findings and recommendations to last month's report by WorkSafe ACT, which found CIT's systems were so poor they effectively protected bullies and left staff afraid to speak out about their treatment, while investigations into complaints were flawed.
Dr Bourke said the 2010 report should have made alarm bells ring and led to changes. But he said he is confident his oversight will improve procedures at the third level education provider.
''This is why I have asked for weekly updates … clearly CIT realised they had problems in Tourism and Hotel Management and initiated a report … they instituted some changes, but those changes were not sufficient to get work safety practices up to the 21st century,'' Dr Bourke said.
''Clearly their view of how to manage workplace bullying was at odds with current 21st century practice and that's what came out in the WorkSafe ACT report.''
Dr Bourke said he only became aware of the KMR Consulting report when the WorkSafe ACT report ''was coming out''.
''Things have changed … for the first time public organisations are liable for prosecution in the same way private enterprise has been liable in the past … there was an apology issued by the CEO Adrian Marron after the WorkSafe report came out and I think that represents a mind shift in the organisation.''
But Dr Bourke said people would be held accountable for the lapses.
''The commissioner for public administration is going to be undertaking an investigation of the past allegations that have been brought to his attention … if he finds misconduct has occurred then individuals will be dealt with accordingly. I'm very clear about that. There has to be a process. We can't sack people willy-nilly, but if people are found [guilty] of wrongdoing they should appropriately dealt with as in any other workplace.''
Request for an interview with Mr Marron were denied.
But last September, when allegations of bullying at CIT were put to Mr Marron, he denied there was a systemic problem at any time. At the time, Mr Marron provided The Canberra Times with a different staff survey and said that 2010 staff survey showed ''that in the main things are pretty healthy''.
CIT's executive director and special project manager-Worksafe Nicole Stenlake said in an email she was unable to discuss the KMR report because of its ''in-confidence nature''.
''The KMR report was studied in depth and an action plan was implemented in 2011,'' Dr Stenlake said.
''This year, as part of our continual improvement process, I am reviewing the results of the 2011 Action Plan with centre staff, to determine the impact of the plan and provide input into the 2012 version of the plan. The 2012 review is still in progress and I am unable to discuss the updates until the results are finalised.''