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Why the medium for your message always counts

We often work at a hectic pace. Mobile communications systems mean that we can transact business wherever we are. On average, we each send or receive 122 emails in a working day.

In these circumstances there are lots of reasons why the medium for your communication should always be via University systems, and never via private email accounts.

  • University systems are secure and information is backed up
  • University business records should be available for future reference
  • University personnel have obligations under the State Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Using a communication channel other than your University email for work-related communications could also be viewed in ways that you might not expect.

Remember how US Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton was subject to intense scrutiny because when she was the US Secretary of State she used a personal email server for official communications rather than the official State Department account.

More recently, the actions of a Queensland Minister are being investigated by the Crime and Corruption Commission after he deleted a private email account which had been used to communicate with an external organisation about government business.

In both cases, it isn’t just the content of the records that matters. It is the perception that these public officers were actively seeking to avoid scrutiny or trying to evade their legal obligations.

All University staff have obligations as public officers, including to conduct University business through the appropriate systems.

The South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has already cautioned public officers who may attempt to avoid Freedom of Information requirements by transacting business through private email accounts. The Commissioner has been clear that such conduct may amount to misconduct, maladministration or corruption and may result in an ICAC investigation.

Given these potential consequences, you should always be clear about the medium that you are using to send each of those work related emails. You never know how your action, even if unintentional, might be viewed in the future.

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