The Australian Public Service Commissioner has called for ministerial advisers to be given clearer instruction on their role and how they relate to the public service.
The call comes amid increased scrutiny on the accountability of political staffers following the Auditor-General's sports rorts report.
APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott said ministerial staff and public servants needed to better understand each other's roles and learn how to work more effectively together.
"There is a strong need to improve and roll out better training and guidance for APS employees and ministerial staff in their respective roles," Mr Woolcott told the APS Wide Conference.
The commissioner's call follows the federal government's decision to reject a recommendation in the Thodey review that ministerial staff be subject to a formal, legislated code of conduct.
The review found the number of ministerial advisers had jumped 32 per cent since 2000 and effectively constituted a new layer of government.
While they are currently expected to abide by a statement setting out standards of behaviour, the Thodey review found there was no formal induction process and little training and said there was a need for code of conduct with "effective mechanisms for accountability and compliance".
The behaviour and accountability of ministerial staffers has come into focus in recent weeks following the release of an Australian National Audit Office report that found political bias in the administration of a $100 million sports grants program in the lead-up to the last election.
The ANAO inquiry found staff in the office of former sport minister Bridget McKenzie developed a colour-coded spreadsheet to guide the allocation of grants to marginal and targeted electorates.
Senior Audit Office official Brian Boyd told a Senate inquiry into the audit's findings the process of assessing projects to fund included "comfortably dozens" of emails exchanged between the minister's office and a senior adviser in the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, including versions of the spreadsheet identifying projects being considered for approval.
"There isn't a single spreadsheet; there are dozens of versions of a spreadsheet," Mr Boyd told the hearing.
"For each round there were various iterations indicating on different days, and sometimes different hours of the day, which of the projects the minister's office was going to approve for funding."
The Audit Office found 43 per cent of projects awarded funding had been ineligible under the terms of the grant program.
Crawford School of Public Policy visiting fellow Norman Abjorensen said the issue of ministerial adviser accountability had been raised by successive public service commissioners but nothing had changed.
Dr Abjorensen said the current arrangement suited governments and ministers, allowing them plausible deniability in what they did and did not know regarding what their staff were doing.
This acted as a fail-safe mechanism in the event a political crisis or scandal erupted.
Dr Abjorensen said it was hard to see heightened training or guidance making much difference to the behaviour of advisors working in the highly politically charged environment of a minister's office.
But Australian National University professor emeritus Richard Mulgan said that although the training itself might not change behaviour, the fact it was being conducted at all signaled there was a problem, which could prompt some reassessment of behaviour.