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Commissioner Brereton said one challenge was a "blame culture" that permeated the broader Australian society.

Former CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin
Commissioner Brereton
Former CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin's resignation a 'sacrifice' that does little to benefit Optus, says national anti-corruption commissioner

Commissioner Brereton said one challenge was a "blame culture" that permeated the broader Australian society.
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Australia's anti-corruption commissioner has taken aim at what he describes as a national "blame culture", as he questioned what benefit the resignation of Optus's chief executive would have on the embattled telco.
National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) chief Paul Brereton made the rare public remarks at an event in Adelaide, alongside commissioners from the South Australian, New South Wales and Queensland corruption watchdogs.
While fielding a question about what was needed to ensure public servants acted ethically and call out alleged corrupt conduct, Commissioner Brereton said one challenge was a "blame culture" that permeated the broader Australian society.
He cited former Optus boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin's decision to fall on her sword after a network-wide outage left millions of customers without service almost a fortnight ago.
"I don't want to get into particular events, but who is going to benefit from the resignation of Optus's chief executive?" he said.
"I don't see that Optus is going to benefit from that in any operational sense — reputationally, there's been a sacrifice to the gods if you like, but that's about all there is.
"And the blame culture that someone has to be punished for a mistake is part of the problem.
"If we recognise that mistakes will happen, accept responsibility for them, put things right, rather than just going to find a scapegoat, we will do a lot to improve culture in the public service."
Commissioner Brereton said cultural change was needed in federal departments and agencies to ensure public servants felt they could make decisions free from influence, even if it required calling out mistakes.
"The challenges to that are really human nature – self-interest and self-protection," he said.
"People are naturally disinclined to take steps, make admissions which might be injurious to what they might perceive to be their reputation or their own interests.
"The consequences of being the harbinger of bad news have been around as long as Mercury — the practice of shooting the messenger goes back a long, long way.
"What I think is really critical in overcoming that is that the careers of people who do the right thing, particularly who do the right thing when it is unpopular to do so, must be seen to prosper, not to perish on the way."
Anti-corruption commission continues with six secret investigations
The NACC opened its doors in July and has already received more than 1,800 referrals.
Almost 1,300 have been dismissed because they did not involve an allegation of corruption or involve a Commonwealth official.
Six investigations have been launched so far, although little detail is known about the probes as the NACC does not reveal what it is looking into.
Commissioner Brereton did note that a focus for the NACC was the widespread use of contractors and consultants by the federal public service — an issue recently thrust into the political spotlight with the PwC tax scandal.
The matter was referred to the NACC after it was revealed a senior partner at the consultancy firm used confidential Treasury information on multinational tax avoidance measures to develop new products for PwC's clients.
"Consultants, who are persons engaged often to assist an agency, have access to information and the ability to misuse the information that they access for their own benefit or for the benefit of other clients," Commissioner Brereton said.
"Contractors can see government sources as an easy means to make money — this has been going on since pink batts, at least, probably long before that.
"I've just read in this morning's paper an account of a person who applied to the NDIS, to discover an item which retailed for $50 was being provided by the NDIS provider at a cost of $300.
"They're areas in which government can be treated as a milch cow, effectively, and in which resources that are intended for the beneficiaries of the scheme are effectively diverted for the benefit of the contract service provider."
Commissioners reflect on disparate anti-corruption commissions across country
Commissioner Brereton was joined on the panel by the heads of the New South Wales, Queensland and South Australian corruption watchdogs.
The NACC is the newest agency on the scene, operating under its own legislation passed by federal parliament.
"I think it is rather extraordinary that in a small country, such as Australia, we each have a different regime for public interest disclosures just as we have a different scheme for our integrity commissions," SA ICAC commissioner Ann Vanstone said.
"It seems extraordinary … we have such different powers and jurisdiction from one state to another.
"It just seems crazy that we're not all learning from one another, and that we don't have standard form legislation to build on the experiences in each state and indeed the Commonwealth."


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