Public interest disclosure

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this policy is to effectively manage public interest disclosures by complying with the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010. The main objectives of this Act, as set out in section 3 are:

  • to promote the public interest by facilitating public interest disclosures of wrongdoing in the public sector; and
  • to ensure that the public interest disclosures are properly assessed and, when appropriate, properly investigated and dealt with; and
  • to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the interests of persons who are the subject of a public interest disclosure; and
  • to afford protection from reprisals to persons making public interest disclosures.

All employees of the Public Sector have an ethical responsibility to report suspected misconduct, 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.

SCOPE:

QLeave aims to provide clear guidance to staff on how to handle and deal with the complex issues associated with an ethical dilemma and when faced with potential wrongdoing. QLeave is committed to treating the public interest disclosure appropriately and making the process fair for both the discloser and the person who is subject to the disclosure. The rights of any person who is subject to, or is in some way associated with, a disclosure will be safeguarded.

CONTEXT:

This policy has been developed in line with the following legislation:

  • Crime and Corruption Act 2001
  • Public Sector Ethics Act 1994
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010
  • Disability Services Act 2006.

DEFINITIONS:

The "Act" in this policy refers to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

GENERAL PUBLIC DISCLOSURES:

In accordance with the Act, there is a distinction between disclosures made by a public officer and a disclosure made by any person.

Disclosure made by public officers
A "public officer" is an employee, member or officer of a public sector entity, including an entity established under an Act.  A public officer may make the following disclosures:
official misconduct (as defined in the Crime and Corruption Act 2001); or
maladministration that adversely affects a person’s interests in a substantial and specific way; or
negligent or improper misuse of public resources resulting or likely to result in a substantial waste of public funds; or
conduct of another person causing a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety or a substantial or specific danger to the environment.

Disclosure made by any person
A disclosure may be made by any person whether or not the person is a public officer regarding:
a substantial and specific danger to the health and safety of a person with a disability as defined in the Disability Services Act 2001; or
a substantial and specific danger to the environment; or
conduct of another person that could, if proved, be a reprisal.

Some disclosures are not protected by the Act, including:
disclosures made to the media (except in special circumstances outlined in section 20 of the Act);
those made frivolously or vexatiously;
those which primarily question the relative merits of government or agency policy; and
those that are made substantially to avoid disciplinary action.

A person has information about the conduct of another person or another matter if:
the person honestly believes on reasonable grounds that the information tends to show the conduct or other matter; or
the information tends to show the conduct or other matter, regardless of whether the person honestly believes the information tends to show the conduct or other matter.

Disclosures that are wilfully false constitute an offence under the Act. The disclosure cannot be based on a mere disagreement over policy that may properly be adopted about amounts, purposes and priorities of expenditure.

Who to make the disclosure to

If you wish to make a pubic interest disclosure or anyone makes a public interest disclosure to you, QLeave’s preferred approach is that you make immediate contact with the Manager Legal Services, who is also QLeave’s delegated Crime and Corruption Commission Liaison Officer. If you are unable to make contact with the Manager Legal Services contact may be made with the Director, Governance and Corporate Services. Alternatively, you can make your disclosure to the Crime and Corruption Commission ('CCC') if it concerns misconduct, the Ombudsman if it concerns maladministration or a waste of public funds or a Member of Parliament.

The Act provides protection from reprisal for any QLeave employee who makes a public interest disclosure. You should disclose anything you may think may be a public interest disclosure. You do not need proof, as long as you have reasonable grounds to believe that it has occurred.

Where possible, be prepared to provide information on:
the name, job title and workplace address of the person (the subject of your disclosure);
details of any relevant events, dates and places;
the names of people who may be able to support your statements; and
any other evidence that supports your view.

How to make a disclosure

Your disclosure can be made in writing or verbally. You can also anonymously disclose information.

Where an employee receives a verbal public interest disclosure they should request the discloser to confirm their statements in writing. If they are unable to do so, the employee receiving the public interest disclosure should document the response and request that the discloser confirm the contents before signing it. If circumstances prevent this occurring, the employee receiving the public interest disclosure should record the date, time and circumstances of the public interest disclosure. It should then be forwarded to the Manager Legal Services.

Where a person wishes to make an anonymous disclosure they should be aware that the Act provides for the discloser to be provided with information regarding whether or not it will be investigated or dealt with and why.  If the disclosure is made anonymously, it is then impossible to provide a response as to the action taken.

If you wish to make a disclosure to the Crime and Corruption Commission ('CCC'), please use the following details:

By email:  mailbox@ccc.qld.gov.au By phone:  07 3360 6060
1800 061 611 (toll free)
By letter:Director, Complaints Section    
Crime and Corruption Commission  
GPO Box 3123    
BrisbaneQLD4001

In person:  Level 2, North Tower Green Square
515 St Pauls Terrace
Fortitude Valley
BrisbaneQLD

If you wish to make a complaint in person, please phone first for an appointment.

Support and protection offered if making a public interest disclosure

The principle of natural justice (procedural fairness) will apply to all investigations of matters subject to public interest disclosures. QLeave is committed to treating the public interest disclosure appropriately and making the process fair for both the discloser and the person who is subject to the disclosure. The Manager Legal Services will treat the investigation seriously and ensure your privacy and confidentiality throughout the process.

The Crime and Corruption Commission operates a support program for people who are considering making, or have made a public interest disclosure about official misconduct or for people experiencing difficulties as a result of making a public interest disclosure about official misconduct. For further information on how to make a public interest disclosure please read ‘Thinking About Blowing the Whistle’: a guide for individuals working in the Public Sector. This guideline is available on the Justice and Attorney General, CCC, QLD Ombudsman and Public Service Commission websites.

For those making a public interest disclosure, Section 36 of the Act, states that a person is not liable civilly, criminally or under an administrative process for making a public interest disclosure. In accordance with Section 73 (2) (f) of the Industrial Relations Act 1999, it constitutes an unfair dismissal if an employee is dismissed on the grounds of making a public interest disclosure or because of a belief that an employee has made or may make a public interest disclosure in accordance with the Act.

If you make a disclosure, please be reminded that matters surrounding the investigation are to be kept strictly confidential to maintain the integrity of the process. Please note that the confidentiality provision will not preclude you from sharing this information with your Union representative/support person.

Support and protection offered if a public interest disclosure is made against a QLeave employee

Employees who are the subject of an allegation may seek assistance from their legal representative or union. Services that are available to employees that offer support and counselling through this process is the Employee Assistance Service (EAS).

Protection exists for those against whom an intentionally false public interest disclosure is made.  In accordance with Section 66 of the Act, it is an offence punishable up to two years imprisonment, to intentionally make a false or misleading statement intending it to be acted upon as a public interest disclosure. You are also reminded of your responsibilities under the Queensland Public Service Code of Conduct.

Assessment and Investigation process

The public interest disclosure is made to the Manager Legal Services who will make an assessment as to whether the disclosure is able to be investigated within QLeave, or to be referred to the CCC or another government agency for further review / investigation.
If the matter is investigated by QLeave, the Manager Legal Services will be responsible for the investigation.
Once the investigation is completed and relevant agencies are consulted, corrective or disciplinary action will be taken by QLeave, if necessary.
The person making the public interest disclosure will be informed of progress and the outcome by the Manager Legal Services.

Staff and Management Responsibilities

All staff should ensure they are aware of this policy and their obligations under the Code of Conduct.  Clear guidance is to be provided to staff on how to handle complex issues and respond appropriately when faced with ethical dilemmas or potential wrongdoing.

Managers/Supervisors must ensure staff are provided with information about making a disclosure and the process surrounding public interest disclosures. All staff should be able to identify potential situations where behaviour may be unethical or fraudulent and know how to report it.

Confidentiality

In accordance with Section 65 of the Act, 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 investigating public interest disclosures. All departmental records of public interest disclosures will be kept confidential.

Reprisal

In accordance with the Act, 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 public interest disclosure.

If you feel you have been disadvantaged or subjected to a reprisal for making a disclosure, you should raise the issue with the Manager Legal Services.

For further information on public interest disclosures please refer to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 or alternatively, contact the Manager Legal Services.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Fraud, Corruption or Misconduct
General Manager
Manager Legal Services

Code of Conduct
Manager Human Resources