Teachers and employees of Education Queensland are being encouraged to call out and report breaches of integrity within the workplace.
- Teachers and education department staff are encouraged to use a new online tool to anonymously report concerns
- An independent investigation into Queensland government integrity and culture is already underway
- The director-general showed leadership in his message to employees, the Opposition says
Education Queensland director-general Michael De’Ath said serious integrity issues could grow from seemingly small acts like not declaring gifts and a culture of feeling afraid to speak out about concerning behaviour.
Mr De’Ath told staff they were entrusted by the government and community to 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 have launched an online form so you can lodge a complaint anonymously,” he said in the video to staff.
An independent investigation into state government integrity and culture is already underway.
Mr De’Ath said the department’s integrity plan “reflects a zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption”.
“That might sound a bit hard hitting, but these things often start small through things like accepting a gift without declaring it, not following the correct process and selecting staff, workplace cultures based on fear, where people feel they cannot talk about their concerns,” he said.
“We have introduced rigorous mechanisms to ensure that recruitment, selection and appointment to executive positions and senior principal positions are made impartially meritoriously and in accordance with best practice. Our next focus area is to actively encourage a culture of speaking up.”
He said reporting wrongdoing was “everyone’s obligation”.
De’Ath said the department would also look at corporate card reform that would include strengthening controls, such as “mandatory requirements for corporate card and procurement training.”
“The Queensland Code of Conduct helps us to understand how we put the principles and values into practice. I know the majority of our staff do the right thing. But it’s important we continue to reinforce our department’s core values, and commitment to working with integrity,” he said.
“The behaviour we walk past as the standard we are prepared to accept. Call out things that don’t look right to you.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said she supported the director-general’s approach.
“The director-general’s message is about ensuring public servants have the confidence to report any issues where they may arise,” she said.
“This is in line with the Palaszczuk government’s expectation that all government workers know how to raise any concerns they may have.”
Ms Grace said the Education Department had processes in place to ensure vexatious complaints were dealt with appropriately.
Queensland Teachers Union president Cresta Richardson said significant integrity issues were rare in state schools because of the workplace regulations and the checks and balances already in place.
“We know our members have worked harder and are under significantly more pressure during the pandemic while supporting public health messaging and playing a major role to end the pandemic, unpaid hours while members also copped a pay freeze.
“Sadly, it appears in spite of these public and profound examples the director-general still feels comfortable raising issues of integrity regarding Queensland state school educators.”
‘Culture is problematic across government’
Opposition education spokesman Christian Rowan said the Opposition was often contacted by whistleblowers in relation to “corruption and nepotism” in the Department of Education.
“There’s been a doubling of WorkCover claims for teachers over the last five years, a myriad of problems in relation to air-conditioning being installed in schools and asbestos exposure, serious ongoing issues with respect to ventilation in our schools and declining standards when it comes to numeracy and literacy,” Dr Rowan said.
“The whistleblowers who have contacted us we have formally written to the Crime and Corruption Commission about those matters, raised those matters in Parliament.
“They’ve been covered in the public domain and there’s been coverage in the press about these matters.”
Dr Rowan said the “culture is problematic across government and that’s simply because the Palaszczuk state Labor government lacks integrity and accountability”.
“Our teachers need support, our schools must be functional, and on the back of all of this, the department of Education is failing to provide proper service delivery in our schools.” he said.
He said the director-general showed leadership in his message to employees.
“It’s very important that this government commits to a full royal commission in relation to the myriad of integrity and accountability issues that are not only engulfing the Department of Education, but other departments as well,” Dr Rowan said.
The Education Minister’s office has been contacted for comment.