Governments provide services and other resources for a range of public policy purposes. It is a fundamental principle of public administration that these resources are delivered to those who are entitled to them on the basis of merit and equity and not for extraneous, irrelevant or improper reasons.
Many public sector agencies control or manage public resources for allocation to applicants or clients based on the clients' individual needs, demographic characteristics or other predetermined criteria. Examples of these resources include public housing, child care or school places and disability services.
The process of allocating these resources is susceptible to corruption when demand for them exceeds supply. Corruption risks may be exacerbated when the applicants for these resources are particularly vulnerable or dependent.
The improper allocation of public resources can constitute corrupt conduct as defined by the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.
A risk assessment of the allocation of resources to clients is likely to identify some or all of the following corruption risks:
- An employee accepting or soliciting money or benefits through providing a resource to someone not entitled.
- An employee accepting or soliciting money or benefits through providing an unfair advantage to a client.
- An employee disclosing confidential information about a resource.
- An employee preparing or accepting false or fraudulent information from a client in an application for a public resource.
- An applicant for a government service or product finding a way to jump the official queue for the service.
- An employee not following appropriate approval processes and/or exceeding delegation levels.
- An employee favouring a particular client in the allocation of a resource (or failing to allocate a resource because of enmity).
Managing corruption risks
As a minimum your agency should:
- Introduce policy and procedures for allocating resources to clients that contain elements listed in the Policy Development Model and promote fairness, impartiality and transparency.
- Include in the policy sanctions for any breach of the policy and procedures.
- Review the policy every two years.
- Refer to the allocation of resources to clients in corporate documents such as codes of conduct.
- Train all relevant employees in the policy and procedures to ensure they are aware of their accountabilities.
- Include the allocation of resources in the agency's internal audit and corruption risk processes.
Risk management strategies
Following your risk assessment of the allocation of resources you should consider these risk management strategies:
- Regularly reviewing the approvals required in the allocation process to make sure that they are still appropriate.
- Ensuring that there is a separation of duties between recommending and approving the allocation of the resource to reduce opportunities for manipulation.
- Requiring employees involved in allocating resources to declare conflicts of interest.
- Establishing clear, standardised criteria for the assessment of eligibility for a resource which must be followed and recorded.
- Providing clear information about what documentation clients need to produce, and how these are retained by the agency so that supporting documentation is provided and accurate records are kept.
- Imposing additional supervisory processes for high value or high demand resources.
- Regularly auditing the allocation processes both in hard copy and by using electronic audit trails in computerised allocation systems.
- Conducting adequate reference checks for employees involved in the allocation of resources.
- Rotating employees responsible for allocating resources periodically to reduce inappropriate relationships developing with clients, and exposure to bribery or improper influence.
- Developing, implementing and promoting a complaint handling process for the allocation of resources to clients.
- Developing an appeal process for unsuccessful applicants for important, scarce resources (such as housing).
- Requiring original or certified copies of proof of identity and other eligibility documents in support of applications.
- Regularly training staff in how to comply with the gifts and benefits policy and how to declare any gifts or benefits offered.
- Providing easily accessible information for the community or client group about eligibility criteria, waiting lists and the agency's policies regarding gifts and benefits.
|Case study 1|
In January 2007 the ICAC received information that an agency officer had manipulated systems and processes for his personal benefit, improperly allocating public housing bedsit units and effecting transfers of clients who had paid him bribes to secure more spacious accommodation.
The officer also knowingly allowed public housing properties to be used for illegal drug dealing and passed on confidential information about police activities to two agency tenants. The officer used existing tenants to help him to identify prospective tenants and facilitate the bribes.
|Case study 2|
The ICAC received allegations in 1989 that bribes were being paid to agency officers to install public boat moorings illegally. Boat owners could jump the queue for moorings in areas of high demand. The ICAC did not conduct a formal investigation, but the Corruption Prevention Division examined the system of allocating boat moorings operated by the agency.
Frequently asked questions
How can I justify that the resource I allocated was done appropriately?
Your organisation should have policies and procedures in place for any resource that is being allocated to clients. The aim of the procedures should be to make sure that:
I work in a small regional area and am sometimes required to allocate a resource to a friend or family member. What should I do?
This question relates to conflicts of interest.
- Total Asset Management Manual, NSW Treasury.
- Department of Housing - allegations of corrupt conduct in allocation of public housing (Operation Greenway) (January 2008)
- Roads and Traffic Authority - corrupt conduct in issuing of driver licences (Operation Sirona) (September 2007)
- Department of Education and Training - attempt to obtain entry to a selective public high school through payment of money (Operation Bellin) (February 2009).
- NSW Treasury, www.treasury.nsw.gov.au