Education staff still paid as suspensions probed
More than 100 Education Department staff are sitting on suspension pending internal investigation into allegations, but authorities are refusing to reveal how long the various probes have taken.
The department is keeping basic details of the investigations top-secret, refusing to reveal how the number of suspensions compares to previous years or the average length of investigation.
After multiple requests for the information, a departmental spokesman told The Courier-Mail it would have to pay for any such information through a request under Right to Information legislation.
The newspaper has applied for documents through RTI, but requests can take months to finalise and typically cost hundreds of dollars, with large passages redacted for a range of reasons.
Data on the suspended staff - many of whom are still on full pay - was requested after The Courier-Mail revealed staff had raised concerns about blowouts in investigation times due to failings in triaging complaints, lengthy suspensions and high staff turnover in the department's Integrity and Employee Relations division, which deals with internal investigations into allegations against the department's 90,000 staff and disciplinary action.
The Queensland Association of State School Principals has also raised issues with the division's performance, saying complaints include that investigations are "typically prolonged, causing uncertainty and distress to individuals and their school communities" and that those accused of wrongdoing are not told the details of the complaint or type of investigation.
It has pushed for the subject of complaint to be told what they are accused of at the start of the investigation and details of the process and timing of the probe.
A department spokesman said 110 employees were under suspension pending investigation as at December 15, arguing it was "an extremely small percentage of the department's workforce".
He refused to reveal details including the number of suspensions in previous years, whether they were on full pay, how long investigations ran and how many allegations were substantiated.
"The department has an uncompromising expectation that all of its 90,000 employees
conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner," the spokesman said.
Issues in the integrity unit were first aired in The Sunday Mail in November, when it was revealed its executive director David Miller was himself investigated over substantiated claims he used a more junior male staffer's computer to email the man's female colleagues.
But he avoided disciplinary action, with deputy director-general Craig Allen deciding to take "management action" involving a letter to Mr Miller noting his concerns and expectations.
Originally published as Education staff still paid as suspensions probed