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Public Interest (Protected) Disclosures
In accordance with the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 (opens in a new window), the University has in place a procedure to protect and support staff who may wish to come forward with disclosures relating to:
- serious and substantial waste of money
- information contravention
These terms are defined in full in the University's Public Interest (Protected) Disclosures Policy. While 'corruption' and 'serious and substantial waste' are concepts that are fairly well understood, 'maladministration' covers a very wide range of potential conduct with the test being that the conduct complained about is of a serious nature. Information contravention refers to a failure to fulfil functions under the GIPA legislation such as acting improperly or making decisions contrary to the GIPA Act.
The foundation stone of the Act and the University's Policy is the practical protection of persons (whistleblowers) who make disclosures.
Essentially a disclosure is made in confidence and it should show or tend to show that conduct of the kind mentioned above has occurred.
Within the University the disclosure must be made to the Disclosure Co-ordinator (the DVC Corporate Strategy and Services) or to the Vice-Chancellor. There are also staff members identified in the Policy as Disclosure Officers who are there to advise and assist staff (in strictest confidence) who may wish to make disclosures. Disclosures can also be made to external agencies that are identified in the Policy.
Once a disclosure has been received, the DVC Corporate Strategy and Services or the Vice-Chancellor will make a determination about whether the matter appears to be a disclosure within the meaning of the Act, and then how the matter will be actioned or investigated. Note that it may be the case that while a matter is not deemed to be a public interest (protected) disclosure that it should still be dealt with under other University procedures.
The confidentiality of the person making the disclosure will normally be protected through the process and not be revealed to the person who may be the subject of the disclosure. However, it may be that given the nature and circumstances of the event or action being reported that the identity of the person making the disclosure becomes apparent or can reasonably be deduced. Further, it may be necessary in fairness to the other person that the identity be revealed. If this is the case, the issues will be discussed with the person making the disclosure prior to any action being taken.
A person who makes a disclosure will be notified within six months of the action that has been taken with respect to the disclosure.
The Act makes it an offence to take detrimental action against a person in reprisal for making a disclosure. The prime purpose is to protect whistleblowers from recrimination.
That principle will apply to the University's handling of allegations and complaints generally but the Public Interest Disclosures Act provides a formal legal protection.
If some form of detrimental action is experienced, that should be reported at the first opportunity to the Disclosure Co-ordinator so that remedial action can be taken.
The University's Public Interest (Protected) Disclosures Policy can be accessed from the Policy DDS.
The policy contains the names and contact details of Officers who can assist with enquiries in confidence.
For more information and available publications for downloading explaining public interest (protected) disclosures, please see the NSW Ombudsman's Office (opens in a new window).