Bullies could also be corrupt, warns watchdog

 

PUBLIC servants have been told to beware of bullying bosses whose behaviour is so severe it may be classed as corruption and should be reported to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The Courier-Mail revealed the corruption watchdog has issued the memo to employees at all levels, advising them workplace bullying may constitute, or even mask, corrupt conduct, particularly where there is a power imbalance.

The timing of the alert coincides with last week's explosive findings by the CCC into the unethical behaviour of Education Department officials in the selection of a new Inner City South State Secondary College principal.

"This publication is designed to assist CCC liaison officers, supervisors and HR staff recognise cases in which workplace bullying reaches the threshold of corrupt conduct or raises a suspicion of corrupt conduct and must be reported to the CCC," the memo reads.

Workers across the public service have been warned some bullying may constitute corruption.
Workers across the public service have been warned some bullying may constitute corruption.

"Beyond its devastating personal and professional consequences, workplace bullying may also constitute corrupt conduct, and has been identified during CCC investigations as a strategy used to mask other forms of corrupt conduct."

It says bullying of a subordinate may amount to corrupt conduct if there is "protracted and repeated" victimisation, humiliation, intimidation or threats, if the conduct involves serious or criminal behaviour like blackmailing, or if the perpetrator is deliberately obstructing their victim who is trying to report an offence.

The memo gives some previously investigated examples, including a school principal who misused government funds for personal development, bullied staff by calling them "lazy", "useless" and a "nutcase" and failed to address or forward on complaints made.

Another example involved a senior sergeant in charge of a specialist unit who engaged in "serious and systemic bullying" of many subordinate police officers through verbal and physical threats, harassment and ridicule and the changing of rosters to punish and intimidate staff over six years.

CCC chairman Alan MacSporran
CCC chairman Alan MacSporran

The timing of the alert coincides with last week's explosive findings by the CCC into the unethical behaviour of Education Department officials in the selection of a new Inner City South State Secondary College principal.

It revealed bureaucrats lied and covered up their unethical behaviour after wrongly involving then treasurer and local MP Jackie Trad in the job search without her knowledge.

Ms Trad was cleared of any corrupt or criminal behaviour.

The findings have seen Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk ask her director-general to look into potential cultural issues as the Public Service Commissioner considers whether any public servants should be disciplined over the school saga.

Meanwhile, 308 claims for workplace bullying and harassment were made across Queensland's public service in the first 11 months of 2019-20, with 64 accepted and $1.5 million paid out in benefits.

More than double that was paid out in the previous year.

Originally published as Bullies could also be corrupt, warns watchdog


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