New bar set for ethical government in the ACT

Released 16/04/2012

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher today announced the ACT Government's Integrity Framework, which will set a new standard for the ACT Public Service, Ministers and their staff, paving the way for even more open, accountable and transparent governance in the ACT.


"Shortly after becoming Chief Minister in May last year, I committed to ensuring that the ACT Government would lead by example in implementing a deliberate program of open government," the Chief Minister said.


"Integrity is central to the success of any government, particularly a government that values openness and collaboration. Setting out our policies and priorities is one thing, but we must also ensure that we achieve the delivery of services, projects and initiatives in a way which is open to new thinking, to diversity and is open to scrutiny.


"In order to achieve this, it is critical that the principles of probity and integrity remain current and are not viewed through the haze of a crisis, but are reformed in an open and proactive way that captures both the ACT Public Service and the Executive.


"The Integrity Framework developed by the ACT Government will address the standards, values, behaviours and the integrity of our work and our people. It outlines a deliberate program designed to reinforce and enhance the foundation of integrity and probity for our system of government in the ACT," the Chief Minister said.


A refreshed and modern Ministerial Code of Conduct has been developed, following recent reforms on this front in other jurisdictions, along with a new Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff which has been released in draft form pending discussions with staff and their union.


"These codes are designed to address any possible issues when accepting a Ministry and appointing and managing staff.  Following the McLeod Report, I have also written to the Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly urging that the non-executive MLA's Code of Conduct be reviewed prior to the 2012 Assembly Election and also consider a Code of Conduct for staff as well.


"In addition to the revised Codes of Conduct, it is important that standards of behaviour by MLA's in relation to transparent policy development is above reproach and that no government should leave room for improper influence which undermines our democratic system of representative government.


"With the emergence of professional lobbyists, it is important that MLAs are provided the tools to discover who is a genuine voice in the crowd.  I believe that the time has come to establish a lobbyist register.  Whilst this could be done by the ACT Executive alone, I think that in a small Legislature like the ACT Assembly, where MLA's chair influential committees and can introduce Private Members Bills, a lobbyist register would need to cover all MLA's.  As such, I have also written to the Speaker on this matter and have offered to work in partnership with him to get this in place as soon as possible," the Chief Minister said.


The ACT Government has also agreed to provide additional funding of $1 million over four years to the Auditor General and the $400,000 over four years to the ACT Ombudsman - both whom perform critical oversight functions. The funding will ensure principles of integrity and probity across government are maintained and ensure external accountability.


Within the ACT Public Service the Head of Service and Commissioner for Public Administration have already commenced a process to develop a formal ACTPS Code of Conduct, building on the Respect, Equity and Diversity Framework established in 2010. Work is also underway in examining the scope for the Commissioner's role to include a role in setting, and enforcing, public sector standards.


The new Public Interest Disclosure legislation which we have been consulting on since releasing the exposure draft in December 2011 will also be introduced into the Assembly prior to the 2012 Assembly Election.


"The ACT Government is committed to the highest standards of public administration in the ACT. To achieve this, we must have the highest standards of probity and integrity in public life.


"We need to ensure the oversight and accountability agencies are supported to do their work and that the employees of the ACT Government understand clearly, the expectations regarding standards of conduct when they are performing their duties.  


"I believe these measures will ensure that we are on the path to continuous improvement and best practise across the ACT administration," the Chief Minister concluded.

- Statement ends -

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