Andrew Colvin's perspective on individual Integrity
Andrew Colvin APM OAM, former Australian Federal Police Commissioner and National Coordinator Bushfire Recovery Agency, shares his perspectives on individual Integrity.
By Andrew Colvin APM OAM, former Australian Federal Police Commissioner and National Coordinator Bushfire Recovery Agency
In the course of your public service career, you will be exposed to the concept of integrity in many ways – most of them very formal. Most often integrity is linked in the workplace to discussions around professional conduct, code of conduct investigations, probity breaches, standards of behaviours and even corruption. This is all appropriate, but it sometimes allows us to put personal distance between ourselves and an issue that gives rise to an integrity question.
I have seen it many times myself where we can dismiss the issue as being a problem for someone else, not for myself – the ‘I wouldn’t do that’ response.
It is a reasonable response after all. Often as APS employees, or employees of any organisation, we are bound by rules, obligations, procedures, and expectations that are set by others. Sometimes it will be legislative, sometimes it will be accepted practice. But often our own personal stake in the integrity frameworks that sit around us are distant enough that we can engage with them only when we must. More worrying, it allows us to sometimes see integrity through a lens of an issue that is vested only in leadership, decision makers, or those that set the standards.
We need to change that and understand integrity as a core competency for each of us, regardless of what role we have. We should personalise it. I prefer to see integrity as a core part of who I am and a corner stone of what I feel others should expect from me regardless of the circumstances.
As Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police I would often speak about integrity and what I felt other should expect from me, and what I expected in return. My goal was always to encourage an audience to personalise their behaviours, their reputation, and therefore the value they placed on integrity and to make sure that they didn’t just think about it for the hours they were at work, but inculcated it into every aspect of their life.
After all, as a senior public servant I could set the best standard of ethical behaviour and integrity while I was at work, but it meant nothing if outside of my duties I discarded those beliefs and lived to a lesser standard. Not only would I be dishonest to myself, the hypocrisy would soon be called out.
I believe this is the same for all members of the APS. Integrity has impact in every aspect of our professional and personal lives and will mean different things in different circumstances, but its significance to us as individuals is critical.
I have recently left government and taken up a role in the private sector. After 33 years in the Commonwealth I can’t begin to describe the many differences, but integrity remains front of mind outside of government as well. Independence, objectivity, conflicts of interest and honest conversations with clients are all aspects of the private sector that make successful firms stand out. Integrity of thought, action, and intention, regardless of the work you are doing. An individual’s reputation is interwoven with a company’s and there are many examples of where this has fallen out of balance in the business world.
So, what does this have to do with the APS Academy? Good question.
Sometimes recognising threats to your integrity is the easy part – if you take integrity personally you will be clear about threats when you see them. The next steps can be more difficult. How do you react, what steps do you take next, who do you talk to?
The answers do not need to be hard, but it can sometimes seem that way. I am excited by the ambition of the APS Academy to help all APS employees navigate these challenges. There are people who can help – your own department or agency will have integrity advisors, there is also the APS Ethics Advisory Service, amongst many other resources that are available. The APS Academy is an opportunity to bring all this together in a learning environment and help you navigate these challenges.