Allegations of misconduct can have a serious effect on employees and your agency’s public image. All employees who work for the Australian Public Service (APS) are required to abide by the APS code of conduct. If it is alleged that an employee has breached the terms of the APS code of conduct the agency they work for can either choose to investigate the matter themselves through their in house human resources department or they can engage the services of an external investigator.
Using an external investigator has a number of advantages but it’s important to be aware of some of potential pitfalls too. Here is a brief guide to help you select the best external investigator for your circumstances and avoid the repercussions of making the wrong choice.
The benefits of using an external investigator
In some circumstances it is simply more appropriate to opt for an external investigator over using in house personnel to investigate allegations of misconduct. These circumstances can include:
- Where the agency is small and doesn’t have sufficient in house resources available to thoroughly investigate the matter.
- Investigations requiring specialist expertise is required which can’t be supplied through in house staff.
- When it’s unlikely that current employees of the agency will be able to conduct an unbiased or independent investigation.
- Situations where there is a need for the agency to use a third party to maintain public confidence in the outcome of an investigation.
There are plenty of benefits to using an external investigator and many public service agencies choose to bring in a third party when they are investigating allegations of misconduct.
What should you look for in an investigator?
When looking for an external investigator it’s important to find the right individual or team, particularly if the allegations are serious or require specialist knowledge and experience. Here are some of the skills and attributes that make a good investigator:
- Familiarity with the employment framework of the public service, including the Public Service Act and other relevant legislation.
- A strong understanding of the Fair Work Act 2009 and its requirements.
- Good interpersonal and verbal communication skills and the ability to put people at ease when conducting interviews.
- Strong written communication skills and experience producing written reports which clearly present the evidence on both sides and discuss the reasoning process involved in any decisions.
- Sound analytical skills and good judgement.
- Awareness of the elements of administrative decision making including procedures for weighing up evidence and the need for a fair and balanced process.
- Experience conducting administrative investigations and weighing conflicting evidence to find out the truth.
Allegations of misconduct, if proven, can lead to serious consequences for the employees involved and could affect their ability to work in the future as well as having a significant impact on them financially. It’s important that any investigations are conducted in a fair and unbiased manner to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and in accordance with employment law.
What are the risks of hiring the wrong investigator?
When an external investigator lacks the experience or expertise to handle an investigation appropriately it could lead to a decision being challenged in court and ultimately set aside. This can lead to a waste of time and resources for the agency involved and could make it more difficult for them to effectively enforce behavioural and conduct standards for employees in the future.
If you have made the decision to hire an external investigator for your public service agency make sure you choose a firm or individual with the skills and capabilities of carrying out a thorough unbiased investigation which complies with legal requirements.
WISE Workplace is on the Australian Taxation Office panel and has a long history of providing investigation services to Commonwealth agencies. All our investigators hold private security licenses and a minimum of Certificate IV qualifications in government investigations. Wise Workplace also provides nationally recognized training in government investigations, and is recognized as a national expert in investigating allegations of misconduct, bullying and harassment.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your investigation. The more rapidly and effectively you can deal with allegations of misconduct in the workplace, the sooner your organisation can move forward.