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Australia: Profiling the Public Sector Research

22 June 2010
Posted by
Yoon So-yeong
The Profiling the Public Sector research is aimed at developing a profile of the functions, corruption risks and corruption prevention strategies within the public sector. The research helps public organizations identify corruption risks in their organization and areas that need further corruption prevention efforts.

The purpose of the Profiling the Public Sector research is to develop a profile of the functions, corruption risks and corruption prevention strategies within the public sector. The research provides information to individual public organizations to assist them in identifying corruption risks in their organization and areas where they should increase efforts to improve the organization’s corruption resistance.

The NSW ICAC conducted the first research in 2001, and the second research in 2007. The 2007 research was designed to update and expand the previous research. The results of these researches were published in 2003 in Profiling the NSW Public Sector: Functions, Risks and Corruption Resistance Strategies, and in 2009 in Profiling the NSW public sector II - Report 1: Results for the NSW public sector as a whole, and are available on the ICAC website (



The research uses two similar printed surveys-- organizational survey and staff survey--that are distributed and returned via mail. The former survey is sent to the Chief Executive Officer of every NSW public sector organization, while the latter to randomly selected employees of the NSW public sector. Based on the results of the survey, the ICAC makes recommendations to assist public sector organizations with their corruption prevention efforts.

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Respondent demographics

The organizations subject to the survey are all NSW public sector organizations, including government departments, state-owned corporations, health service organizations, universities, local councils, and other statutory bodies, whose list is created based on relevant legislation.

In the case of the staff survey, the organizations were classified into six types, and 5 organizations with 40 or more staff were randomly selected from each organization type. And 20 to 40 staff were selected from each participating organization.

In the 2007 survey, the organizational survey was sent to 511 CEOs with the staff survey sent to 993 employees in the NSW public sector organizations.

Survey structure

The two types of surveys maintain the same structure, enabling a general comparison between the perspectives of CEOs and staff. The survey questionnaires consist of three parts: organization’s functions, corruption risks and organizational strategies. The organizational survey includes more questions than the staff survey.

A. Organization and its functions
A range of questions are asked about the organization, including the main area of business, roles, financial process, number of employees, jurisdiction, work flow, etc.
B. Corruption Risks
The respondents are asked about their perceptions of corruption risks within their own organization (e.g., high-risk functions, the most significant risks, possible emerging risks, etc.). The survey identifies 15 functions (in both the staff and organizational surveys) and 43 business activities (in the organizational survey only) that involve high corruption risks.
C. Organizational Strategies
This section of the survey asks whether the organization has put in place or is implementing corruption prevention strategies (e.g., code of conduct, gifts and benefits, information technology, records management, recruitment, procurement, reporting misconduct, conflicts of interest, policies and training, etc.).

Detailed information about the survey methodology is provided in Profiling the NSW public sector II - Methodology and respondent demographics published by the ICAC in 2009.

Results from the 2007 survey

High risk functions

The functions perceived by both CEOs and staff as having high risks were reception of cash payments; inspection, regulation or monitoring of standards; and undertaking of construction. Both organizational and staff survey results indicated that many NSW public sector organizations have a policy framework to control corruption risks in these functions.

Business activities

The business activities most commonly rated by organizations as major corruption risks were procurement, recordkeeping and conflicts of interest. The two activities most commonly rated as major corruption risks requiring more attention were recordkeeping and political interference.

Misconduct types

In both organizational and staff surveys, failure to disclose or abuse of conflict interest, and intentional failure to document significant information were misconduct types most commonly rated as major corruption risks.

Corruption Prevention Strategies

Compared to the 2001 survey, organizations surveyed in 2007 used more corruption prevention strategies such as formal management of corruption risks and a code of conduct, which may indicate the overall improvement of the corruption risk management of the NSW public sector.

While the proportion of organizations with a gift register more than doubled to 75% in the 2007 survey, 42% of staff did not know if their organization had a gift register.

In some areas, the two respondent groups showed a significant discrepancy in their awareness of corruption prevention strategies. When asked whether they had heard the Protected Disclosures Act 1994, 90% of organizations replied that they had heard of the Act. In contrast, only 37% of staff indicated that they were aware of the Act. Many staff also indicated insufficient knowledge of internal reporting systems.

Local councils vs. state agencies

In 2010, the ICAC compared the corruptions risks between local councils and state agencies in Profiling the NSW public sector II-Report 3: Differences between local and state government by analyzing the 2007 survey results. According to the report, local councils face a wider range of corruptions risks than state agencies on the whole due to high-risk functions and processes involved with their activities.

The report also indicated that local councils appear less likely to use the management controls such as audit mechanism, risk management processes and fraud control plans. However, they were found to have lower risks in such areas as record-keeping, gifts and benefits, and code of conduct than state agencies.


This article was written by the ACA Secretariat with approval from the NSW ICAC. Last updated on 11 June 2010.


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