(Not) Posting on Public Service work

Last post, Patrick Lambe commented if I could “work towards getting Australian public servants permission to talk about the work they do (so far as it does not affect national security)? We need to learn so fast as a profession, that this disabling of shared experience is crippling us.” 

Now I am all for breaking rules – except on the occasions when they would cost me my job!  In the Victorian Public Sector, we have an updated code of conduct that commenced in July this year.  Within our code of conduct is the following section (section 3.5 pg 11):

“Public sector employees only make public comment when specifically authorised to do so in relation to their duties, a public sector body, or government policies and programs. Such comment is restricted to factual information and avoids the expression of personal opinion. Public comment includes providing information or comment to any media (electronic and print), the internet and speaking engagements.

When making a comment in a private capacity, public sector employees ensure their comments are not related to any government activity that they are involved in or connected with as a public sector employee and make it clear they are expressing their own view. They ensure personal comments do not compromise their capacity to perform their public sector role in an unbiased manner, and that their comments are not seen or perceived to be an official comment.”

Now that clearly limits my capacity to post on the work that I do.  I could say that I am commenting in my personal capacity but even then, I am not able to publish on any work that I am involved in or connected with on the Internet, particularly my blog site.  So as much as I would like to post about the really interesting work that I am doing (like executive conferences, designing service strategies, linking strategy with data analysis, innovation and ideas management, critical assessments of performance, foresight workshops, etc), I find that my ability to do so is severley limited, if not totally constrained.  And I think that I have probably overstepped the line even saying that!

Despite that, I will test the boundaries where I can, and comment to the limits prescribed.  To respond to Patrick’s challenge, I’ll try and get permission where needed and look into challenging this wider system so that we can comment on how things happen internally.  Our new Premier has stated that he wants Government to be more open and accountable and I’ll try to help that along – to the best of my limited capacity!

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9 Responses to (Not) Posting on Public Service work

  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    What a fantastic code of conduct ! – Totally risk adverse, insular and tunnel visioned sector. This is at odds with the new Premier’s edict that the Govt be more open and accountable.

  2. Joe Bloggs (or is it?) says:

    How about getting Brumby’s support for a better code of conduct?

  3. Thanks for responding on this Luke. If more people do what they can to help accelerate lerning, then it might just happen.

  4. Paul Roberts says:

    I have thought about this delimma too, from a foresight point of view and in terms of networking.

    There are no facts about the future – so a strict interpretation the Victorian Government code of conduct would appear to restrict public servant comments to the past. Could be interpreted as the “no foresight” rule.

    Secondly, one of the great attractions of the internet is online networking. The style of course is individual, dynamic and viral. Online discussion can be creative and it facilitates knowledge sharing and knowledge development. So how does this sit with government? The problems that Luke refers are systemic. For example, there are just 16 official US government blogs right now – not even a shadow of commerical and private practice.

    http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml

    Problematic indeed!

    Paul r

  5. Thanks for that comment Paul and really interesting that you point out the restriction to factual information. What I find interesting about this is that while I may be able to talk about facts (with authorisation), I am not able to provide my personal opinion. But that does not limit other people (particularly those who are not public service employees) from providing opinions about these facts, or people using pseudonyms such as Joe Bloggs commenting above.
    In addition, let’s explore that “no foresight” rule. If I was to write a post about a potential aspect of future government policy (particularly one that has not yet been formulated), and others were to comment on it, have I breached the code? I may have a problem as part of my duties is to explore the future – so am I barred from making any comment on the future anyway?
    There is a particular problem here though if I am hosting a discussion on public policy and my role in organising that even if I am not making an explicit comment. I am not a lawyer but I might have some responsibility here.
    Something to ponder about.

  6. Paul Roberts says:

    Well, I suppose a public servant could talk about the future after having qaulified their remarks in a way to comply with the code. Something like “The fact is, there are no facts about the future, so please treat what I am about to say accordingly”. Perhaps the public servant, in stating a fact that there are no facts about the future, would be in compliance with the code?

    I am not a lawyer either, but maybe one could be found to support my qaulification.

    cheers

  7. lodlephox says:

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    progon4ik.byethost9.com

  8. pymnfopay says:

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