Victoria’s Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 (previously the Protected Disclosures Act 2012) protects people who make disclosures about improper conduct in the public sector and from detrimental action being taken in reprisal for making a disclosure.
Wyndham City Council is authorised to receive disclosures that relate to the conduct of the Council or of a member, officer or employee of Wyndham City Council. Disclosures that relate to Councillors must be made directly to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
Wyndham City Council identifies Integrity as a core organisational value and are committed to the consistent application of moral and ethical behaviour, encompassing honesty openness and respect. Transparency and accountability in administrative and management practices are important in the demonstration of public value. The Council has no tolerance for improper conduct and encourages its reporting.
Council’s position is supported by our Public Interest Disclosure Policy which reinforces its obligations when receiving disclosures. It establishes the governance structures necessary to support the making and handling of disclosure of improper conduct and/or detrimental action, in line with the guidelines of the independent broad-based anti-corruption commission (IBAC). The policy is an integral component of fraud and corruption management and seeks to complement our Fraud and Corruption Control Policy.
The Council maintains procedures consistent with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012, and the IBAC Guidelines (Guidelines for making and handling public interest disclosures, Guidelines for public interest disclosure management and Investigations guide: Conducting internal investigations into misconduct).
What is improper conduct?
The definition of Improper Conduct is specified by the following categories:
- corrupt conduct
- criminal offence
- serious professional misconduct
- dishonest performance of public functions
- intentional or reckless breach of public trust
- intentional or reckless misuse of information
- substantial mismanagement of public resources
- substantial risk to health or safety of a person
- substantial risk to the environment
- conduct of any person that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer of their functions
- conduct of any person that is intended to adversely affect the effective performance by a public officer of their functions for the benefit of the other person.
What is a disclosure and in what circumstances is it protected?
A disclosure is a report made by a person or group of people about:
- improper conduct of the Council or its officer(s); or
- detrimental action that the Council or its officer(s) takes against a person in reprisal for making or cooperating in the investigation of a protected disclosure.
The conduct may have occurred in the past, is currently occurring or may happen in future.
It is not a disclosure if the complaint or allegation is already in the public domain.
It may be assessed by IBAC and deemed a protected disclosure if:
- it has been made by an individual or group of people;
- it is made verbally (in private) or in writing to a person authorised to receive a disclosure;
- it is about conduct which has, is or will adversely affect the honest performance of the Council or it’s officer(s) official function; and
- there is information which shows or tends to show improper conduct or detrimental action; or
- there are reasonable grounds for the discloser to believe that there is information which shows or tends to show improper conduct or detrimental action.
How do I make a disclosure?
You can make your disclosure about improper conduct of the council or its staff to the Public Interest Disclosure Officers via mail, phone or email:
Director Corporate Services - Mark Stoermer
Executive Manager Corporate Affairs - Emily Keogh
1300 023 411
You can also report directly to IBAC the independent broad-based anti-corruption commission, by providing information or making a formal complaint via their online form or by calling 1300 735 135.
What does the Council do when it receives a disclosure?
The Public Interest Disclosure Officer will assess disclosures received:
- to determine whether the conduct constitutes improper conduct or detrimental action, giving consideration to how serious the consequences are; and
- to identify the link between the conduct and the official function of the Council or it’s officer(s).
The Public Interest Disclosure Officer will determine, in consultation with IBAC as necessary, if a disclosure is required to be referred to IBAC. The Council has 28 days from the time the disclosure was made to assess the report, determine how it will be handled, report back to the discloser in writing and if required notify IBAC.
If referred to IBAC, they will conduct an assessment and communicate the result to the discloser in writing within a reasonable timeframe. If they determine it is a public interest disclosure, they can decide to either dismiss, investigate or refer the investigation to another body (such as the Ombudsman).
If not referred to IBAC, or they determine that it is not a public interest disclosure, the Public Interest Disclosure Officer will convene a meeting of Integrity and Ethics Committee, if appropriate, for a decision on handling of the disclosure. The Council may dismiss, conduct their own investigation or appoint an appropriately qualified external organisation to investigate.
What protections are provided for people who make disclosures?
Protections apply to disclosures made in line with the requirements specified in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012. They apply from when the disclosure is made, regardless of whether the matter is referred to IBAC, and includes the subsequent provision of any further information. These include:
- a person is not subject to civil / criminal liability or administrative action;
- a person is not committing an offence against any legal Act which imposes obligations of confidentiality or restrictions on information disclosure;
- a person is not breaching any other confidentiality obligation made by oath, rule or law or practice; and
- a person cannot be held liable for defamation in relation to information provided.
These protections do not apply if the discloser provides information knowing it to be false or misleading, or falsely claims a matter is the subject of a protected disclosure.
There are a number of confidentiality obligations related to the receipt and investigation of public interest disclosures. Loss of protections and a range of more serious penalties may be applied for the breach of these obligations.
There are also welfare obligations related to public interest disclosures. Council must provide welfare support to a discloser or witness as the circumstances require.