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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Accountability suffers if records are a shambles

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has released the eighth and final report on its inquiry into Railcorp, commenting that the investigation had exposed an "extraordinary extent of public sector corruption. Corrupt employees appeared to be confident that they would not be caught or if they were, that not much would happen to them."

One of many reasons for all this was that despite the State Records Act, and RailCorp’s Code of Conduct imposing a duty on employees to “create and maintain full and accurate records of work performed, including reasons for your decision making,” record-keeping appears to have been optional - "shambolic" - according to ICAC :
" People in a position to monitor the veracity or completeness of records, including both managers and support staff certifying aspects of documents, do not do so. Many records contain inaccuracies. Poor record-keeping is a major hindrance to RailCorp’s ability to audit the activities and performance of employees and contractors, and managers who tolerated poor record-keeping created opportunities for corruption. Poor records can also make it difficult to prove corrupt conduct. The list of documents that were routinely found to be incomplete, never created and/or inadequately stored included timesheets, work order dockets, invoices, weld returns, purchase orders, scopes of work, tender documents, requests for quotation, and pre-work brief forms."
ICAC said this and previous investigations, had shown that RailCorp "records are unreliable sources of information for any kind of systematic monitoring."

That would go for public accountability as well. No wonder the difficulties in combating scepticism about the Freedom of Information Act in these circumstances or that the Premier, perhaps with this in mind, told Railcorp to release reports that it was fighting to withhold recently.

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