• APS Reform Blueprint
• freedom of information reform
• Commonwealth whistleblowing scheme
• Government 2.0 and the declaration of open government,
• Lobbying Code of Conduct and Register
• government advertising.
"Last year’s State of the Service Report indicated that agencies needed to increase employee awareness of the Standards of Ministerial Ethics (2007), the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff (2008), the Register of Lobbyists (2008) and the Lobbying Code of Conduct (2008). For each of these measures respectively, 38%, 43%, 39% and 42% of agencies (that had provided regular services or advice to ministers and/or their offices) reported promoting
them to staff during the year.
For those employees who had direct contact with ministers and/or their advisers, the survey showed:
• 16% reported familiarity with the Standards of Ministerial Ethics and another 54% reported having heard of, but not being familiar with, the Standards
• 20% reported familiarity with the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff and another 58% reported having heard of, but not being familiar with, the Code
• 22% reported familiarity with the Register of Lobbyists and another 51% reported having heard of, but not being familiar with, the Register
• 18% reported familiarity with the Lobbying Code of Conduct and another 48% reported having heard of, but not being familiar with, the Code.
The Commission has also been tasked with exploring the feasibility of a citizen survey to improve the quality of APS service delivery. This is another international public sector trend identified in the APS Reform Blueprint as offering substantial opportunities to improve organisational performance. Canada and, more recently, New Zealand regularly survey their citizens and report considerable benefits from doing so.
Governments should ensure that the role that public servants are asked to play in public debates, especially in a Web 2.0 environment, is consistent with the apolitical nature of the APS, the APS Values and the Code of Conduct. Public servants have long supported the government of the day by providing factual information in support of government decisions, for example before Senate Estimates and in public forums. It is important that these roles not slip inadvertently into contentious advocacy. This is true in the Web 2.0 environment but it is also true in respect of more traditional mechanisms such as speeches,
reports or published papers. Public servants, especially senior public servants, have to exercise informed judgement in such matters.
There appears to be a level of ambivalence about the benefits of online engagement in the existing APS culture. The Australian Public Service Commission’s online engagement guidelines note that Web 2.0 provides public servants with unprecedented opportunities to open up government decision-making and policy implementation to contributions from the community. The guidelines encourage APS employees to engage in robust policy conversations, in a professional and respectful manner. However, any online participation by APS employees, including as a private citizen, must comply with the APS Values and Code of Conduct.
The findings of the State of the Service Report also indicate that the APS may not yet be fully capitalising on the benefits of Web 2.0 to rapidly convey information and gain feedback on a range of government initiatives and services. The employee survey showed that 31% of APS staff and 28% of service delivery employees have access to social media and networking tools in the workplace. (Table 4.4) Of those with access to these tools, most agreed the tools have helped them more effectively carry out their work.
..employees were asked if they had, in the previous 12 months, faced a challenge in balancing the need to be apolitical, impartial and professional; to be responsive to government; and to be openly accountable in dealing with ministers and/or their offices. The survey question sought to explore potential tensions in the three principal APS Values relating to the relationship between the APS and government. The proportion of SES and EL employees who reported facing a challenge increased from 23% in 2007–08 and 24% in 2008–09, to 31% in 2009–10. However, this is still lower than in 2004–05 and 2003–04 (41% in both years).