Making and Managing a Public Interest Disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld)

Version Number

2.2

Implementation Date

22/03/2016

Scope

Department-wide

Purpose

​The department is committed to creating and maintaining a work environment that encourages and facilitates the disclosure of information that relates to:

  • unlawful, corrupt, negligent or improper conduct that could amount to corrupt conduct;
  • maladministration;
  • substantial misuse of public resources;
  • substantial and specific danger to public heath and safety;
  • substantial or specific danger to the health and safety of a person with a disability; and
  • danger to public health and safety and the environment.

The department aspires to an organisational climate where all employees feel comfortable and confident enough to report wrongdoing. The department also ensures appropriate consideration is given to the interests of employees who are subject of a PID.

The purpose of this procedure is to establish and maintain a reporting framework within the department to ensure an effective and efficient system of reporting and management of disclosures of wrongdoing in accordance with the Act and to provide protection to employees who make disclosures about suspected wrongdoing to a proper authority within the department and in accordance with the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service

The procedure outlines the process to follow when making a PID and the responsibilities of all employees within the department when a PID is reported.
This procedure applies to all suspected wrongdoing assessed as a PID and is supported by the Public Interest Disclosure – guidelines for making and managing a PID.

Overview

​The department is dedicated to promoting the public interest by facilitating disclosures of wrongdoing and ensuring that PIDs are correctly assessed and, when appropriate, thoroughly investigated and dealt with in accordance with the Act, ensuring suitable protection from reprisal action against the person making the PID. 

A PID is a report of a suspected wrongdoing or danger. For a report to be considered a PID and attract the protections outlined in the Act, it must be an appropriate disclosure about public interest information. A disclosure of information can be made by any person whether a public officer (employee) or a member of the public. The disclosure must be made to a proper authority.

Any person can disclose information if they honestly believe the information they have is about substantial and specific danger to the health and/or safety of a person with a disability; the commission of an offence if the offence is or would be of a substantial and specific danger to the environment; or the conduct of any other person could, if proved, be a reprisal.

A public officer (employee) may also make a disclosure about the conduct of another person that if proven could be corrupt conduct, m​aladministration, misuse of public resources, or danger to public health and/or safety.

Prior to making a disclosure a person should be aware of the responsibilities they have when making a disclosure and after making the disclosure. When making a disclosure a person has the responsibility to provide honest and accurate information and provide all the information they have in their possession and make the disclosure to the proper authority. 

When a PID is reported the department is committed to managing the disclosure thoroughly, impartially and in a timely manner. The management of the PID includes initial evaluation, including a risk assessment and the determination of appropriate action, which may include investigation. If an investigation is conducted the discloser will be kept informed of its progress and outcome.

Responsibilities

Director-General
  • Communicating the expectation that it is essential for all departmental employees to carry out their role and responsibilities to a high professional and ethical standard and always act in the public interest.
  • Ensuring appropriate training and awareness strategies and control systems are implemented to effectively prevent and efficiently respond to suspected wrongdoing, including matters of suspected corrupt conduct.
  • Establishing realistic procedures to protect employees, who make a PID, from reprisal which may be taken against an employee in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010. 

Director, Ethical Standards Unit

  • Monitoring, reviewing and providing advice on legislative, policy and procedural obligations relevant to the disclosure of PIDs, official misconduct matters and corrupt conduct prevention strategies.
  • Providing advice to managers and employees regarding the disclosure of PIDs and corrupt conduct matters.
  • Overseeing matters disclosed pertaining to suspected corrupt conduct, maladministration or other wrongdoing within the department and ensure these are assessed and dealt with in accordance with specified timeframes.
  • Overseeing the development and delivery of employee training and awareness about PIDs.
  • Notifying the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in accordance with the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 of complaints or information that may represent corrupt conduct within the department as the CCC Liaison Officer.
  • Establishing a mechanism for the collection, reporting and reviewing of data pertaining to the disclosure of information that meets the threshold for a PID.
  • Reporting on PID data to the Queensland Ombudsman, as the oversight agency, when required.

Assistant Director, Ethical Standards Unit

  • Assessment of disclosures to determine if the information meets the threshold of a PID.
  • Determining what action is to be taken if the information is assessed as a PID.  For example, should the matter be referred to another entity, managed or investigated by the department.
  • Referral to investigation team or relevant region if matter is of a corrupt conduct nature.
  • Ensuring a risk assessment is conducted on the PID and managed accordingly.
  • Ensuring that advice is provided to the discloser of the PID and appropriate support and protection is afforded to them.
  • Ensuring appropriate ongoing support and protection to employees who report suspected wrongdoing.
  • Overseeing the collection and recording of pertinent information into the relevant database.
  • Ensuring the PID is managed in a timely manner and in accordance with the legislative requirements.
  • Ensuring that appropriate advice on the outcome of the matter is provided to the discloser.

Manager/Supervisor

  • Maintaining a workplace culture that values professionalism, integrity and diligence.
  • Demonstrating positive ethical standards through their own conduct and communications at work and values all employees.
  • Creating a supportive reporting environment that encourages employees to report any concerns about wrongdoing.
  • Providing appropriate confidential support to employees who report suspected wrongdoing.
  • Implementing appropriate controls to prevent harm to the department’s assets and resources.
  • Assisting employees to resolve ethical dilemmas as required.
  • Taking all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of reprisal and monitor the workplace for any signs of detrimental action towards the discloser.

Employee (public officer)

  • Conducting their duties to a high professional and ethical standard.
  • Seeking appropriate guidance if they have an ethical dilemma.
  • Immediately reporting a matter, to a proper authority, if they honestly believe that some wrongdoing has occurred.
  • Maintaining confidentiality about the fact that a PID has been made, the information that has been disclosed and the identity of those referred to in the PID.
  • Being prepared to assist in an investigation of the PID if requested by the investigator to provide information.
  • Advising the nominated internal witness support officer or manager if it is believed that reprisal action is being taken against the discloser.

Process

The process for making a public interest disclosure is contained in the Guidelines to making and managing a Public Interest Disclosure.

Online Resources

Review Date

28/06/2013
Attribution CC BY

​Any person
Any person irrespective if that person is a public officer (employee) or not.

Department
The Department of Education and Training.

Detriment
Includes:

  • personal injury or prejudice to safety
  • property damage or loss
  • intimidation or harassment
  • adverse discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment about career, profession, employment, trade or business
  • financial loss
  • damage to reputation, including personal, professional or business reputation.

Discloser
A person who makes a public interest disclosure.

Employee
Any person employed by the department to work in a state educational facility regional or corporate support area in a permanent, temporary, casual, volunteer or contractual capacity.

Maladministration
Administrative action that was:

  • taken contrary to law 
  • unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory
  • in accordance with a rule of law or a provision of an Act or a practice that is or may be unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory in the particular circumstances
  • taken for an improper purpose; on irrelevant grounds or having regard to irrelevant considerations
  • an action for which reasons should have been given, but were not given 
  • based wholly or partly on a mistake of law or fact
  • wrong.

Misconduct
Means inappropriate or improper conduct in an official capacity or inappropriate or improper conduct in a private capacity that reflects seriously and adversely on the public service.

Corrupt conduct
As described in the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 s15:

Corrupt conduct is defined as conduct of a person, regardless of whether the person holds or held an appointment, that:

(a) Adversely affects, or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the performance of functions or the exercise of powers:

(i) a unit of public administration; or
(ii) a person holding an appointment; and

(b) Results, or could result, directly or indirectly, in the performance of functions or the exercise of powers mentioned in paragraph (a) in a way that:

(i) is not honest or is not impartial; or
(ii) involves a breach of the trust placed in a person holding an appointment, either knowingly or recklessly; or
(iii) involves a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of functions or the exercise of powers of a person holding an appointment; and 

(c) Is engaged in for the purpose of providing a benefit to the person or another person or causing a detriment to another person; and

(d) Would, if proved, be:

(i) a criminal offence; or
(ii) a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating the person’s services, if the person is or were the holder of an appointment. (Crime and Corruption Act 2001, s 15). 

Proper Authority (Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010, section 5) 

A proper authority is:

  • a public sector entity; or
  • a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Public Health and Safety
Includes the health and safety of persons:

  • under lawful care or control
  • using community facilities or services provided by the public or private sector
  • in employment workplaces.

Public Interest Disclosure
A disclosure of information made to the proper authority by:
1.  an employee about:

  • the conduct of another person that could, if proved, be corrupt or maladministration that adversely affects a person’s interest in a substantial and specific way
  • a substantial misuse of public resources (other than an alleged misuse based on a mere disagreement over policy that may properly be adopted about amounts, purposes and priorities of expenditure)
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
  • a substantial and specific danger to the environment.

2.  by any person (including an employee) about:

  • a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability 
  • the commission of an offence against the provision mentioned in Schedule 2 of the Act if the commission of the offence is or would be substantial and specific danger to the environment
  • a contravention of a condition imposed under a provision mentioned in Schedule 2 of the Act if the contravention is or would be a substantial and specific danger to the environment 
  • the conduct of another person that could, if proved, be a reprisal.

Public Officer
A public officer is an employee of the department.

Public Sector Entity (Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010, section 6)
A public sector entity is any of the following:

  • a committee of the Legislative Assembly, whether or not a statutory committee
  • the parliamentary service
  • a court or tribunal
  • the administrative office attached to a court or tribunal
  • the Executive Council
  • a department
  • a local government
  • a university, university college, TAFE institute or statutory TAFE institute
  • the agricultural college
  • an entity established under an Act or under State or local government authorisation for a public, State or local government process
  • an entity, prescribed under a regulation, that is assisted by public funds.

Employees can make a report of wrongdoing within the department to the following:

  • the Director-General
  • the Minister for the department
  • Human Resources Manager
  • manager or supervisor 
  • any other person in a management position within the department
  • Director, Ethical Standards Unit
  • an officer of the Ethical Standards Unit.

A disclosure may also be made to an external body such as the Crime and Corruption Commission if the information relates to conduct that if proved could amount to corrupt or a reprisal relating to a previous disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

Reprisal
Causing or attempting or conspiring to cause detriment to another person because or in the belief that:

  • the other person or someone else has made or intends to make a PID 
  • the other person or someone else is, has been or intends to be involved in a proceeding under the Act against any person.

An attempt to cause detriment includes an attempt to induce a person to cause detriment.