Learnings from SA Health

Learnings from SA Health

The SA Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has published its report following an examination of governance practices at SA Health.

The Commissioner notes: “I have formed the view that poor conduct and practices are common and accepted within SA Health. I cannot quantify the extent to which this is happening or the cost to the taxpayer. However, I can confidently state that it is not insignificant.”

The report lists cultural and governance issues within SA Health that provides fertile ground for misconduct and maladministration to flourish. Key points are as follows:

* A culture of bullying and harassment not only threatened the health, safety and morale of employees, but hindered investigations because SA Health employees are too frightened to speak up. In fact 51 per cent of SA Health employees reported encountering bullying and harassment and 78 per cent rated SA Health as vulnerable to bullying and harassment.

* An “environment where personal interests are preferred at the expense of the public interest” and poor records management, which meant some decisions were not documented and approvals and authorisations were made in an ad hoc manner.

* Failing to monitor how much its highly paid specialist contractors were working, and how well they were carrying out their duties.

* Poor contractual and financial management of clinical trials, conflicts of interest and “irregular and mismanaged” procurement practices by an agency that accounts for roughly 38 per cent of the state’s procurement activity. In some cases, specialists had allegedly been paid from the public purse while working in the private sector on SA Health time, or claiming full-time wages while only working three days.

* The Department has been the subject of 1,166 complaints to the Office of Public Integrity since it was established in 2013, the report notes, amounting to 18 per cent of all public administration complaints in the state.

* More SA Health employees said they had experienced corruption across almost all categories than the wider public administration.

* Forty-five per cent said they had experienced nepotism, compared to 39.9 in the wider public administration, and 20.6 of SA Health employees had experienced misuse of confidential information, compared to 14 per cent of their colleagues in other areas.

* Records management is “wholly inadequate for an organisation which is relied upon to deliver a critical public service and … entrusted with administering substantial amounts of public funds”. Administrators often didn’t know whether records have been kept, where they are kept and how they could be accessed.

A copy of the full ICAC report can be found here.