The WA public service lost its confidence after high-profile Corruption and Crime Commission and other public inquiries, causing it to lapse into risk-averse decisions that harmed the public interest.
Public Sector Commissioner Mal Wauchope made the observation while saying WA's public accountability framework was arguably Australia's most complex, a reflection of recent history flowing from the WA Inc royal commission and the more recent CCC inquiries.
"For the public sector to fulfil its purpose of providing for the needs of government and the community, it is important it has the confidence of the community, government and Parliament," Mr Wauchope said in a recent lecture at the University of WA. "My basic tenet is that most public sector employees try to do the right thing most of the time.
"When problems arise, more often than not, someone has not thought through their decision and it is a matter of poor judgment rather than malicious or negligent."
He said misconduct and fraud did occur in such a large workforce but was rare in the context of hundreds of thousands of daily actions.
WA has about 139,000 State public servants, making the Government easily WA's biggest employer.
Mr Wauchope's comments come as the Public Accounts Committee is about to review his role and after Chief Justice Wayne Martin said last year that the Barnett Government had delegated "extraordinary" power to the position.
Mr Wauchope agreed his role was characterised by "institutionalised conflicts of interest" in that he had to set standards and ethics and also monitor their compliance.
He said he made the rules of the game, coached, umpired, played and disciplined those who broke the rules. But he welcomed the PAC inquiry as "an opportunity to have the model better understood".
Mr Wauchope said he would launch a Centre for Public Sector Excellence this year to deliver key integrity messages to employees.
He said the sector needed the confidence to not be unduly risk averse but nor did it want "cowboys".