Public interest disclosure procedure
A public interest disclosure (PID) enables public officers, as well as the general public to make protected disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (the Act) concerning:
- corrupt conduct
- serious and substantial waste of public money
- substantial and/or a specific danger to public health or safety.
The most effective protection for a person making a PID is the right organisational culture.
The Office of Industrial relations (OIR) is committed to creating and sustaining a positive ethical climate that encourages disclosure of unethical or inappropriate behaviour.
This procedure has been prepared to comply with section 28 of the Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Standard No.1 issued by the Queensland Ombudsman under section 60 of the Act.
The Act and the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 provide the ethical framework and outlines the protection principles. The Crime and Corruption Act 2001 provides an external reporting mechanism and an independent investigative and enforcement body.
This procedure applies to all OIR employees and any external person making a PID to OIR under the Act.
|Discloser||The person who makes the PID.|
Causing, attempting or conspiring to cause detriment to another person because of, or in the belief that:
Conduct that involves action or inaction of a serious nature that is:
Conduct of a person that:
The conduct in question, if proven, must also amount to either a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for the person's dismissal.
|Natural justice||Provides all parties the opportunity to present their case, be fully informed about allegations and decisions made and have the right to representation.|
What is a PID?
The Act distinguishes between PIDs made by public officers and those made by anyone else. What constitutes a PID depends on who is making the disclosure.
PID by a public officer
A public officer can make a disclosure about:
- corrupt conduct, as defined by the Crime and Corruption Act 2001
- maladministration that adversely affects another person's interests in a substantial and specific way
- a substantial misuse of public resources
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
- a substantial and specific danger to the environment.
PID by any person
Any person can make a disclosure about:
- a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability
- a substantial and specific danger to the environment
- the conduct of another person that could, if proven, be a reprisal.
Responsibilities and accountabilities
Every employee of the Queensland public service has an ethical responsibility to report suspected corrupt conduct, maladministration, wasting of public funds, substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, the environment or a person with a disability and reprisal action.
All leaders and managers across OIR will promote an environment in which the reporting of negligent or improper behaviour is encouraged.
OIR's Human Resources Unit can provide guidance to employees on how to make a PID as well as the process to manage and investigate PIDs.
Key principles and process
To satisfy the test of a PID, a person needs to honestly believe on reasonable grounds that the information they have shows the conduct or other matter.
Disclosures that are false or misleading, and that are made to the media (except as described in section 20 of the Act) are not protected by the Act.
A disclosure can be made in writing or orally and anonymously.
Where an employee receives an oral PID they should request the discloser to put the details in writing. If they are unable or unwilling to do so the employee receiving the PID should document it and ask the discloser to confirm the contents.
If circumstances (for example, a telephone caller who remains anonymous) prevent this occurring, the employee receiving the PID should record the date, time and circumstances of the PID.
The principle of natural justice (procedural fairness) will apply to information that is relied upon during the investigation of PID matter. OIR is committed to treating the PID appropriately and making the process fair for both the discloser and the person who is subject to the disclosure.
Discloser support and protection
OIR will take all concerns seriously and ensure privacy and confidentiality throughout the process. Government employees can be confident of protection against reprisal and bullying and can contact the Employee Assistance Program for advice and counselling. This service provides confidential counselling and support to employees and their immediate family.
A person who makes a PID under section 36 of the Act is not subject to any civil or criminal liability or any liability arising by way of administrative process, including disciplinary action, for making the disclosure.
In the making of a PID, a person does not commit an offence under any Act that imposes a duty to maintain confidentiality in relation to a matter or by rule of law and/or agreement requiring the person to maintain confidentiality.
There is provision within the Act for protection from defamation action in that a person who makes a PID has a defence of absolute privilege for publishing the information disclosed.
A discloser must maintain confidentiality and integrity of the process by not discussing it with work colleagues or others unconnected with the matter. All statements and correspondence in regard to the matter should be regarded as strictly confidential. Please note that the confidentiality provision will not preclude an employee from sharing this information with their union representative or support person.
Where required, interpreters or other assistance will be provided to employees or other persons wanting to make a PID.
Subject officer support, protection and rights
The rights of any person who is the subject of, or is in some way associated with a disclosure are important. They are entitled to confidentiality and the presumption of innocence.
Subject officers have the right to:
- be informed, where necessary, and at a time considered appropriate by the delegate or decision maker of the alleged wrongdoing or danger
- provide a response
- be treated fairly
- have the matter handled confidentially
- an impartial person hearing the matter.
Affording natural justice does not mean a subject officer must be advised of the allegation as soon as the information or complaint has been received.
Subject officers may seek assistance from their legal representative or union and may utilise the services of the Employee Assistance Program for advice and counselling.
Protection exists for those whom an intentionally false PID is made. It is an offence under Section 66 of the Act to intentionally make a false or misleading statement intending it to be acted upon as a PID.
Employees working alongside the subject officer may be required to participate in the investigation of the disclosure. They should not be treated adversely because of their involvement in this process and any substantiated allegations of adverse treatment on these grounds may result in disciplinary action being taken against the subject officer.
The assessment and investigation process
If the PID is lodged with OIR, OIR Ethical Standards will assess the PID and determine whether the disclosure should be referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission or another agency for review and investigation.
A disclosure may be referred to another agency when:
- The PID received relates to the conduct of another public sector agency.
- Another agency has the necessary jurisdiction, expertise and technical knowledge to investigate or take other action.
If the matter needs to be investigated by OIR, OIR Ethical Standards will be responsible for coordinating the investigation which may be completed by an independent investigator.
Once the investigation is complete and relevant agencies consulted, corrective or disciplinary action will be taken by OIR where necessary.
A representative from Human Resources will inform the discloser in writing of the progress and outcome of the PID.
It is an offence for a person to make a record of, or intentionally or recklessly disclose confidential information received in the administration of the Act to anyone, except where authorised to do so by the Act.
Strict confidentiality is to be maintained at all times in relation to reporting and investigation of PIDs. All OIR records of PIDs will be held and securely filed by OIR Human Resources.
Risk of reprisal and risk assessments
As soon as possible after receiving a PID, OIR Ethical Standards will determine the level of protection and support appropriate for a discloser by conducting a risk assessment of a reprisal to the discloser and others associated with the discloser.
If a person making a PID has concerns about reprisal being taken against them because of the disclosure, under the Act, the person can be given special protection to prevent this occurring.
If you feel as though you have been disadvantaged or subjected to reprisal for making a disclosure, you should raise the issue with OIR Ethical Standards.
It is an offence for an employee to take a reprisal because of a belief that another person has made, or intends to make a PID.
OIR executives will ensure protective measures are in place that are proportionate to the risk of reprisal and the potential consequences of reprisal. If the risk is assessed as sufficiently high, Human Resources will work with the OIR executive to prepare a protection plan to protect the discloser.
How to lodge a PID disclosure?
To lodge a PID with OIR, email email@example.com or if you wish the PID to be anonymous, you can mail it to:
OIR Ethical Standards
Office of Industrial Relations
GPO Box 69
BRISBANE QLD 4000