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Friday, March 10, 2006

High ideals for ministers' servants

The Federal Public Service Commissioner has published a best practice guide ‘Supporting Ministers, Upholding the Values’. Given all we have heard recently about the break down in standards, this is a timely reminder about good practice, and particularly the roles and responsibilities of public servants.

One of the values which underpin the Australian Public Service is accountability. Good record keeping, and transparency are essential elements.

On record keeping the guide says
“all significant decisions or actions need to be documented to a standard that would withstand independent scrutiny. Proper record keeping allows others to understand the reasons why a decision was made, or an action taken and can guide future decision makers”.
With a reference to the Palmer report into the Department of Immigration, the guide says that good practice should extend to ensuring
“that executive management makes itself personally accountable for ensuring that sound file management practices are followed"
On the issue of advice to ministers, the guide says that advice from public servants must be
“frank, honest, comprehensive, accurate and timely. It should also be forthright and direct and not withhold or gloss over important known facts or bad news”.
FOI gets a mention:
“while the possibility of public access may properly influence how some communications are recorded it is important to resist pressure to avoid making records where they would indeed clarify the decision making process and accountability”.
All in all, perhaps nothing new but an important reminder of the essentials of public service in working with ministers. All public servants, not just those in the APS, could benefit from the guide’s important messages.

Who will put it in the 'in tray' for ministers and ministerial staff?

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