Education Department crisis


Story Details

The Education Department corporate arm is fractured but more than that... it's imploding.

“There's a culture that managers can do whatever they like and bully people and treat people however they like," says former insider Margaret.

And according to her the very section tasked to ensure the 24,000 staff and 180,000 students are safe... Is a health hazard itself.

“Ironically... you know I used to work for health and safety but I had to resign from my position for my own health and safety,” says Margaret.

That's right, the health and safety section has repeatedly failed its own tests.

“By not managing a bully... ahhh that in turn overflows to the next person because that's how they think you can treat people... and overflows to the next person... so it becomes organizational creep," explains Margaret.

Her reward for speaking up about serious problems and inadequacies within her work area was met with anger, denials and cover-ups.

“It's always been whitewashed... camouflaged... and the person that's been the one reporting has been looked at as vexatious and problematic... and they are the ones that wear the consequences while the others get promoted,' says Margaret.

And the consequences were harsh and personal…

“I put up with this for two years... in the end other staff begged me to put in the complaint," says Margaret.

And made doing her job and protecting the welfare of others, almost impossible.

“People used to have bets... they would bet when I came in from the field... oh Margaret’s here... look at their watch... have a bet how long it took for this man to come out and start yelling and shouting at me in my face... like a foot away from my face," says Margaret.

But as we are about to see, what Margaret describes is a microcosm of a vastly bigger malaise... A kind of domino effect.

“… And because of his bullying and his technique of being able to skew information to make it look like I was the problem to all the managers... suddenly the other managers began to treat me like that as well," says Margaret.

Margarets’ situation triggered two internal reports... the first found nothing wrong even though the main witnesses weren’t interviewed.

“It was turned around to make me look like the problem... that I was undermining my unit," says Margaret.

And the second report re-enforced the first, she demanded an external enquiry, so money was spent on a third independent KPMG report which found…

"…The majority of witnesses provided accounts of events that corroborates ms (beep) claim that she had been treated inappropriately by HSS management."

But nothing much appeared to happen...

“People are trying to hold onto their jobs to gain, or be seen in the right light to gain, a promotion," says Margaret.

But it did lead to yet another costly report again by KPMG… Just one more in a catalogue of enquiries.

“Before the Debelle Enquiry there were a whole stack of reports that were done over a number of years… this included Ernst and Young, Bill Cosi review, KPMG review, there was also a radar... what they call a radar report," says Margaret.

Alarm bell after alarm bell but the education bureaucrats had their ear plugs in.

'It has been rocking my fundamental beliefs in what's right and what's ok in the world,” says Margaret.

We'll call this parent Sally. Her child was touched inappropriately by a teacher at a western suburbs school… All sound familiar?

"Our Premier, who was the Education Minister at the time of my child being interfered with, who is now not sacking any of the people deemed incompetent after the Debelle Inquiry, who seemingly is just giving us more and more spin," says Sally.

Opposition leader Steven Marshall reckons it's more like an episode of ‘Yes Minister’ than real life... but this is a tragedy of errors.

“Don't forget this is a department which has had nine separate structurings in the last eleven years... it's had five separate ministers... it's had now ten separate Chief Executives or acting Chief Executives but nothing seems to be improving… The government doesn't seem to really take any form of action until there's a public outcry... until there is media attention... well quite frankly that's not the sort of government that we want... that's not the way that we build a quality education system for our next generation," says the Opposition Leader.

Shadow Education Minister David Pisoni says a KPMG report issued in April 2012 also highlighted the fact that the Education Department, a self-insurer, must comply with Workcover rules and regulations... but DECS is the class dunce.

“The last audit that was done of the Education Department didn't meet those requirements... so we have a Workcover system being managed by the Education Department that is non-compliant," says David Pisoni.

A further irony in this is the health and safety services unit is bloated with bureaucrats…

"It has five times as many people per capita than the Victorian system," says David Pisoni.

More money that could be better spent in schools. Education Minister Jennifer Rankine didn’t respond to this story today, instead the Education Department told us…

“…As a result of the KPMG investigation, the line manager and a colleague we issued cautionary letters and ordered to undergo training. Not all the complaints were substantiated and even if they were they were not sackable offences.

“We've got this highly centralised controlling bureaucracy which decides when and who can actually find out information... well quite frankly that's unacceptable... nobody’s served well by this system," says the Opposition Leader
(“The government now says it will all be ok because they have a new CEO... the cop?")

"...Ah, look we wish him all the best, but it seems to us a very odd appointment," says the Opposition Leader

“We really didn't need the Debelle Inquiry to show us the state of... ah... the way the place operates," says Margaret.