Queensland Department of Education staff urged to report breaches of integrity as a public interest liability

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Education Queensland teachers and employees are encouraged to call and report breaches of integrity in the workplace.

Queensland chief education officer Michael De’Ath said serious integrity issues could stem from seemingly minor acts like not declaring gifts and a culture of fear to speak up about behavior of concern .

Mr. De’Ath told staff that the government and the community had entrusted them with the work in the public interest, and he encouraged staff to use a new online tool to report concerns.

“Reporting wrongdoing is everyone’s obligation and we’ve launched an online form so you can file a complaint anonymously,” he told staff in the video.

An independent investigation into the integrity and culture of state government is already underway.

Mr De’Ath said the department’s integrity plan “reflects a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption”.

“It may sound a little harsh, but these things often start with things like accepting a gift without declaring it, not following the right process and selecting staff, fear-based work cultures, where people feel that they can’t talk about their concerns,” he said.

“We have rigorous mechanisms in place to ensure that the recruitment, selection and appointment to management and executive positions are carried out in an impartial, meritorious manner and in accordance with best practice. Our next goal is to actively encourage a culture of speaking out.”

He said reporting wrongdoing was “everyone’s obligation”.

General Manager Michael De’Ath broadcast a video message to all staff.(ABC News: Jake Evans )

De’Ath said the department would also consider corporate card reform that would include tightening controls, such as “mandatory requirements for corporate cards and procurement training.”

“The Queensland Code of Conduct helps us understand how we put the principles and values ​​into practice. I know the majority of our staff are doing the right thing. But it is important that we continue to reinforce the core values ​​of our department and our commitment to working with integrity,” he said.

“The behavior we follow is the standard we are willing to accept. Say the things that don’t seem right to you.”

Education Minister Grace Grace said she supported the chief executive’s approach.

“The chief executive’s message is to ensure that officials have the confidence to report any issues that may arise,” she said.

“This is in line with the Palaszczuk government’s expectation that all government employees know how to raise concerns.”

Ms Grace said the Department for Education had processes in place to ensure vexatious complaints were dealt with appropriately.

    Dark-haired woman wearing black dress and thin-rimmed glasses speaks during a press conference.
Ms. Grace said she supports the Director General’s approach.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

“Culture is problematic across government”

Opposition education spokesman Christian Rowan said the opposition was often contacted by whistleblowers about “corruption and nepotism” at the Department of Education.

“There has been a doubling of WorkCover claims for teachers over the past five years, a myriad of issues related to the installation of air conditioning in schools and exposure to asbestos, serious ongoing issues regarding the breakdown in our schools and the lowering of standards when it comes to numeracy and literacy,” said Dr Rowan.

“Whistleblowers who have contacted us, we have formally written to the Commission Against Crime and Corruption about these issues, have raised these issues in Parliament.

“They’ve been covered in the public domain and there’s been press coverage about these issues.”

Dr Rowan said ‘Culture is problematic in government and that is simply because the Labor government in Palaszczuk state lacks integrity and accountability’.

“Our teachers need support, our schools need to be functional, and because of all of this, the Ministry of Education is failing to provide proper service delivery in our schools.” he said.

He said the general manager showed leadership in his message to employees.

“It is very important that this government engages with a full royal commission on the myriad integrity and accountability issues that engulf not only the Department of Education but other departments as well” , said Dr. Rowan.

The office of the Minister of Education has been contacted for comment.

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