The Practice of Integrity by the Integrity Commissioner
Integrity is at the heart of what we as public servants do. But what does that mean in our everyday work? Jaala Hinchcliffe, Integrity Faculty, explains.
By Jaala Hinchcliffe, Integrity Commissioner, Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
I have worked in integrity agencies for most of my career, so it surprised me that when I became Integrity Commissioner that it made me stop and think - what is integrity all about. The Macquarie Dictionary defines integrity as “soundness of moral principle and character; uprightness, honest”. So, integrity is basically doing the right thing.
Integrity is also an important part of our Australian Public Service Values. The value of “Ethical” is described as:
“The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy and acts with integrity in all that it does”.
So, integrity is who we are as public servants - we act with integrity in all that we do. That must mean that integrity is a core skill or craft for us to develop if we want to develop as a public servant.
At the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, we often get to see the sharp end what happens when a person does not act with integrity. Our core business is to investigate allegations of corruption and corruption, it seems to me, is the antithesis of integrity and the antithesis of who we are as public servants.
But if we only see integrity as the opposite of corruption, we run the risk of missing the important decisions of integrity that we face every day. I think the most common of these decisions is what do you do when you realise you have made a mistake. This is a common decision point for all of us because we all make mistakes. The real test of integrity is what you do when you realise your error.
- Is your inclination to hide it and hope for the best?
- Or do you take accountability for the mistake and work out how to fix it?
- Does your answer change depending on how high the stakes are?
- If there are consequences involved for you, would you be more likely to either hold yourself to account or tried to hide it?
One of my aims in working with the APS Academy is to create safe spaces for people to have conversations about the difficult decisions that can occur in considering integrity – what is the right thing to do. It is also a place for us to practice the skill or craft of integrity.
If integrity is a skill, then like any skill, it needs to be practiced. During this Integrity Month, I encourage you to consider the practical aspects of integrity in your job – you know your own job and situation best. Practice for those circumstances where you are going to have to make a tough call under pressure. Anticipate situations and practice your response. Identify people in your workplace that you can talk to about the difficult decisions you are likely to face. Make use of the APS Ethics Advisory Service, the integrity area in your agency or the resources available on agency websites such as ACLEI, the APS Academy or the APSC. And keep asking yourself “how will I act with integrity in this situation?”