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Public Interest Disclosure Procedures

Reporting improper conduct

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 encourages and assists people in making disclosures of improper conduct or detrimental action by public officers and public bodies, as well as any person who adversely affects the honest performance of a public officer or public body of their official functions.

The Act provides protection to people who make disclosures about improper conduct in the public sector without fear of reprisal. These disclosures are called ‘public interest disclosures’. Anyone can make a public interest disclosure against the Commission. This includes employees and members of the public.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has responsibility for receiving and investigating disclosures. These procedures explain how to make a public interest disclosure about the Commission to multiple bodies including IBAC, the Victorian Ombudsman, and the Victorian Inspectorate, and how the Commission protects people who make public interest disclosures.

The Commission does not tolerate improper conduct by employees, nor the taking of reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct. It is committed to ensuring transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices and supports the making of disclosures that reveal improper conduct, including corrupt conduct, conduct involving a substantial mismanagement of public resources, and conduct involving a substantial risk to public health and safety or the environment.

The Commission does not tolerate detrimental action against those who make, or co-operate with, public interest disclosures about the Commission. The Commission will take all reasonable steps to protect people who make such disclosures from any detrimental action in reprisal for making the disclosure.

What is a Public Interest Disclosure?

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 creates a framework for dealing with public interest disclosures and the people who make them. The purpose of the Act is to:

  • encourage and assist people to make a disclosure of improper conduct and detrimental action by public officers, public bodies and certain private individuals.
  • provide certain protections for people who make a disclosure, or those who may suffer detrimental action in reprisal for a disclosure
  • ensure that disclosures are properly assessed, and investigated when necessary
  • ensure that certain information about a disclosure is kept confidential – the identity of the person making the disclosure, and the content of that disclosure.

A public interest disclosure is a report made by a person about improper conduct of public bodies or public officers performing public functions, and any person who adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer or public body of their official functions.

Improper conduct includes corrupt conduct, a criminal offence, serious professional misconduct, the dishonest performance of public functions, intentional or recklessly breaching public trust, intentional or reckless misuse of information or materials, substantial mismanagement of public resources or conduct involving substantial risk to public health or safety, or to the environment. It also includes  the conduct of any person (private individual) that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer or public body of their official functions. This revised definition of improper conduct no longer includes less serious or trivial conduct.

A public interest disclosure can also be made about detrimental action against a person by public bodies or public officers in reprisal for the making of a disclosure. Detrimental action includes action causing injury, loss or damage, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment. It includes actual action as well as the threat of action.

How to make a disclosure

Who can make a disclosure?

An individual or group of individuals. A disclosure cannot be made by a business or a company.

What can I make a disclosure about?

Improper conduct engaged in, and/or detrimental action taken by, public bodies or public officers performing public functions or certain individuals. This includes the Commission and/or its officers.

You may make a public interest disclosure about information that shows or tends to show, or that you believe on reasonable grounds shows or tends to show:

  • a person, public officer or public body;
  • is engaging in, or proposing to engage in;
  • ‘improper conduct’ and/or ‘detrimental action’ in reprisal for having made a public interest

The conduct you are disclosing must be the performance of a person or body’s function as a public officer or public body or private individuals who try to improperly influence public officers or public bodies in the performance of their official functions.

Who can I make a disclosure to?

Under the Public Interest Disclosures Act, the Commission cannot receive disclosures about the Commission or its employees that alleges improper conduct or detrimental action. If you wish to make a public interest disclosure about the Commission or any employee at the Commission, you must make the disclosure to a body that can receive a public interest disclosure, including Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC):

Level 1, North Tower, 459 Collins St, MELBOURNE VIC 3000
GPO Box 24234, MELBOURNE VIC 3001
Phone: 1300 735 135
Fax: (03) 8635 6444
Website: ibac.vic.gov.au

IBAC can also be contacted through the National Relay Service (NRS).

  • TTY users phone 1800 555 677 then ask for 1300 735 135
  • Speak and Listen users phone 1800 555 727 then ask for 1300 735 135
  • Internet relay users connect to the NRS then ask for 1300 735 135.

See IBAC’s website for more information on making a public interest disclosure as well as their contact details.

How do I make a disclosure?

You may make a disclosure to a body that can receive a public interest disclosure, including IBAC, the Ombudsman and the Victorian Inspectorate:

IBAC

  • in person
  • in writing (including by using IBACs complaint forms on their website)
  • by telephone (including by leaving a voicemail message)
  • by email.

You may make a disclosure anonymously.

You may not make a public interest disclosure by fax.

The Ombudsman

You may make a disclosure anonymously.

You may not make a public interest disclosure by fax.

Victorian Inspectorate in the same form as above

You may make a disclosure anonymously.

Welfare management

The Commission is committed to ensuring the welfare of those who make or co-operate with public interest disclosures. As the Commission cannot receive public interest disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosures Act, the Commission may not be aware someone has made a public interest disclosure about the Commission.

IBAC will only notify the Commission of a public interest disclosure made about the Commission if it decides it is necessary. If IBAC does notify the Commission of the identity of a discloser, or someone cooperating with an investigation, such notifications are confidential and the Commission is responsible for providing that person with reasonable welfare support.

Where relevant, the Commission will consider appointing a welfare manager when a person has made a public interest disclosure or is cooperating, or intending to cooperate, with an investigation of a public interest disclosure.

A welfare manager is responsible for:

  • considering the welfare and protection needs of the discloser and/or witness’ and fostering a supportive work environment
  • monitoring a specific discloser or co-operator
  • providing practical advice and support
  • advising the discloser and/or witness of the protections available under the Act
  • receiving and responding to any disclosures of detrimental action in reprisal for making the disclosure (eg harassment, intimidation or victimisation)
  • ensuring that the discloser and/or witness’ expectations of the process and outcomes are realistic; and
  • maintaining confidentiality.

In determining whether to appoint a welfare manager in any particular case, the Commission will consider:

  • whether the disclosure has proceeded, or is likely to proceed, to an investigation
  • whether there are any real risks of detrimental action against the persons involved, taking into account their particular circumstances
  • whether the Commission can ensure that the person is taken seriously and treated with respect
  • whether the Commission can provide effective support to the persons involved, including keeping them informed of the progress of the disclosure, and
  • whether it is within the Commission’s power to protect the person/s involved from suffering repercussions.

The Commission may appoint an internal person as welfare manager or engage a contractor to provide welfare services. The Commission will also consider referring an employee to its Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Criminal offences

There are a number of offences set out in the Public Interest Disclosures Act relating to breaches of the requirements of the Act. The key offences to be aware of are:

  1. It is an offence to take or threaten detrimental action against another person in reprisal for a public interest
  2. It is an offence to disclose the content, or information about the content, of a disclosure unless permitted to by the Act
  3. It is an offence for any person to:
  • provide false or misleading information, or further information that relates to a public interest disclosure, that the person knows to be false or misleading in a material particular, intending that the information be acted on as a public interest disclosure
  • claim that a matter is the subject of a public interest disclosure knowing the claim to be false, and
  • falsely claim that a matter is the subject of a disclosure that IBAC or the Victorian Inspectorate has determined to be a public interest disclosure complaint.

Alternatives to making a 'public interest disclosure'

Although the Commission cannot receive disclosures, the Commission can still receive complaints about its services. More information on how to make a complaint is available under our service standards.

Employees are encouraged to raise matters with their supervisors and managers at any time.

Co-operation with IBAC

The Commission co-operates with IBAC. This includes facilitating any review of these procedures by IBAC; responding – where required – to recommendations made by IBAC; and providing assistance to IBAC or any other external investigations.

Reporting

The Commission must provide information about how to access these procedures in its annual report.

Review

These procedures are reviewed regularly to ensure they meet the objectives of the Public Interest Disclosures Act and are consistent with IBAC’s guidelines.

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Address
Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

General enquiries
enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au

Reception
1300 891 848

Enquiry line
1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

Interpreters
1300 152 494

NRS Voice Relay
1300 555 727 then use 1300 292 153

Media enquiries
0447 526 642

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and deep connection to the land.

We acknowledge that the Commission is on the land of the Kulin Nation and pay our respects to Elders past and present.