What makes a good Probity Advisor?

Procure Group has been in the probity advisory business for almost 20 years. During that time, probity advising has become a recognised profession. Being in the industry for a long time has given us some insights into what agencies should look for in a probity advisor. Explore these insights below.

A good probity advisor will have experience in providing advice on the integrity of government projects and processes. This may include people with experience in governance, assurance and compliance services (such as audits and investigations), sourcing activities (such as procurements), or legal services. They must have a good understanding of probity principles including confidentiality, accountability and transparency, impartiality, conflicts of interest, and value for money.

Also look for probity advisors that have a track record of providing proactive advice from project commencement, rather than specialising in providing reactive advice after an issue arises. The earlier that probity issues can be identified and managed, the less impact they will have should they arise during the project. This also reduces the overall risk profile of the project. Probity advisors with experience in monitoring a diverse range of projects also tend to be good at providing a number of possible solutions to probity risks.

Good probity advisors know the right questions to ask to help guide your decision making. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it will help an advisor to understand the activity being undertaken and the scenario facing your agency at the time. This includes not only the nature of the activity but also the policies and procedures that govern that activity.

Secondly, knowing the right questions to ask will help a probity advisor analyse the probity risks and assess the impact on your agency should the matter remain unmanaged. Sometimes one additional piece of information can change the entire risk profile of the matter, meaning it might change from low to high risk and vice versa, and therefore require different strategies to manage the issue.

A good probity advisor doesn’t need to be a subject matter expert on the project or process being reviewed or monitored. They just need to know the right questions to ask and be experienced in providing probity advice.

A probity advisor must also be independent of the process being monitored or reviewed. This is important because they must be willing to raise issues with agency staff, even if they think their advice may be unpopular.

Probity is not always black and white. While some matters are straight-forward and easy to solve, many others require further investigation and analysis. This may be due to there being many risk factors or because the matter may have a significant impact on the activity or agency as a whole.

When complex probity matters arise, a good probity advisor will explore all possible risks, including the impact of each possible scenario, and help develop practical solutions to mitigate the probity risk. Someone who can ‘navigate the grey’ understands that there may be more than one way to solve a matter and that probity risks may not always be able to be mitigated entirely.

If systemic issues have been identified, a good probity advisor will also advise you on the ways you can improve your processes to reduce the likelihood that the matter will occur again in the future.

A probity advisor won’t always have all the answers but knows where to find them A good probity advisor recognises that they are always learning and will understand the value in consulting others so that a range of different ideas and perspectives can be considered. This helps to ensure that the best possible solution, or solutions, can be developed.