Policy

Public Interest Disclosure - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of the PID Act is to provide a structure to encourage the reporting and management of Public Interest Disclosures and for the protection from reprisal of persons making Public Interest Disclosures to the University. The purpose of this policy is to establish a system for the management of Public Interest Disclosures at the University in accordance with the PID Act.

The policy is designed to complement normal communication channels between supervisors and University employees. University employees are encouraged to continue to raise appropriate matters at any time with their supervisors, but as an alternative have the option of making a Public Interest Disclosure in accordance with this policy.

2. Definitions, Terms and Acronyms

Maladministration is administrative action that -

(a) was taken contrary to law; or

(b) was unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory; or

(c) was taken for an improper purpose or on irrelevant grounds or having regard to irrelevant considerations; or

(d) was an action for which reasons should have been given, but were not given; or

(e) was based wholly or partially on a mistake of law or fact; or

(f) was wrong.

Corrupt conduct is conduct that is or involves -

(a) (i)  the performance of functions or exercise of powers that is dishonest or lacks impartiality; or

    (ii) a breach of trust placed in the person as the holder of an appointment in a unit of public administration; or

     (iii) a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of the person's functions as the holder of the appointment (whether for the person's benefit or the benefit of someone else); AND

(b) is either a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for dismissal of the officer (ie where dismissal would be a reasonably possible outcome).

PID Act is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

Public Interest Disclosure is a disclosure comprising:

(a)  for a University Senator or employee, information about:

  • the conduct of another person that could, if proved, be corrupt conduct or maladministration that adversely affects a person’s interest in a substantial or specific way; or
  • a substantial misuse of public resources; or
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
  • a substantial and specific danger to the environment.

(b)  for any person, information about:

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

Public Interest Disclosure Standard - the Public Interest Disclosure Standard issued by the Public Service Commission under section 60 of the PID Act.

Reprisal - to cause or attempt or conspire to cause detriment to another person because of, or in the belief that the person has made or intends to make, a public interest disclosure.

University employee - all employees of the University, including permanent, temporary, full-time, part-time or casual employees.

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

As a public sector entity established under the University of Queensland Act 1998, The University of Queensland is subject to the PID Act. This policy applies to University Senators or employees who make a disclosure in accordance with this policy and supporting procedures.

The policy may also apply to disclosures made by any person when made in accordance with this policy and supporting procedures.

4. Policy Statement

The University of Queensland is committed to the objectives of the PID Act. The University recognises the value and importance of contributions of University employees in enhancing administrative and management practices and strongly supports public interest disclosures being made. The University considers public interest disclosures are an important component of ensuring its employees uphold the highest standard of integrity and accountability. The making of public interest disclosures is in accordance with the University’s ethical culture, in particular, acting with integrity.

When a public interest disclosure is reported, the University is committed to:

• properly assessing and, where appropriate, properly investigating the disclosure thoroughly;
• where required, taking action on any wrongdoing in relation to the disclosure; and
• keeping the discloser informed of the progress and outcome of the investigation.

The protections under the PID Act may apply to a person who makes a Public Interest Disclosure, based on an honest belief, on reasonable grounds, about the conduct or other matter disclosed. However, it is a criminal offence under the PID Act to make a Public Interest Disclosure to intentionally provide information that is false or misleading.

This policy and the supporting procedures set out the framework for the management and the process for making Public Interest Disclosures at the University as required by the PID Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Standard.

5. Roles and Responsibilities

The Chief Operating Officer is responsible for ensuring adherence with this policy and the supporting procedures and is responsible for issues related to the management of Public Interest Disclosures.

University employees have a responsibility to make Public Interest Disclosures about actual or suspected instances of corrupt conduct, maladministration, wastage of university funds, substantial and specific dangers to public safety, the environment or a person with a disability, and reprisal action. University employees also have an important role in supporting people who have made disclosures and must abstain from any conduct that is or could be perceived as a reprisal.

Students and anyone who has dealings with the University have the right to voice their concerns and to make a Public Interest Disclosure under this policy.

Detailed responsibilities relating to the management of Public Interest Disclosures at the University are provided in the procedures.

6. Reprisals

If a person making a Public Interest Disclosure has concerns about a reprisal being taken against them because of the disclosure, the PID Act provides certain protections from the reprisal. 

Section 40 of the PID Act makes it 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 or is, has been, or intends to be involved in a proceeding under the PID Act against any person.

Custodians
Chief Operating Officer
Mr Greg Pringle

Procedures

Public Interest Disclosure - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures outline the process to be undertaken in dealing with Public Interest Disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Maladministration is administrative action that -

(a) was taken contrary to law; or

(b) was unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory; or

(c) was taken for an improper purpose or on irrelevant grounds or having regard to irrelevant considerations; or

(d) was an action for which reasons should have been given, but were not given; or

(e) was based wholly or partially on a mistake of law or fact; or

(f) was wrong.

Corrupt conduct is conduct that is or involves -

(a) (i)  the performance of functions or exercise of powers that is dishonest or lacks impartiality; or

    (ii) a breach of trust placed in the person as the holder of an appointment in a unit of public administration; or

     (iii) a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of the person's functions as the holder of the appointment (whether for the person's benefit or the benefit of someone else); AND

(b) is either a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for dismissal of the officer (ie where dismissal would be a reasonably possible outcome).

PID Act is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

Public Interest Disclosure is a disclosure comprising:

(a)  for a University Senator or employee, information about:

  • the conduct of another person that could, if proved, be corrupt conduct or maladministration that adversely affects a person’s interest in a substantial or specific way; or
  • a substantial misuse of public resources; or
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
  • a substantial and specific danger to the environment.

(b)  for any person, information about:

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

Reprisal - to cause or attempt or conspire to cause detriment to another person because, or in the belief that the person has made or intends to make, a public interest disclosure.

University employee - all employees of the University, including permanent, temporary, full-time, part-time or casual employee.

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to any person who makes a Public Interest Disclosure or any investigation carried out under the PID Act.

4. Procedures Statement

Under the Act the University can specify that a discloser must use the University’s procedure for making a PID, or alternatively the discloser can use the Act’s default procedure.

4.1 University’s disclosure procedure

The University’s procedure is to make the disclosure in writing to the Chief Operating Officer and send it to:

The Chief Operating Officer
Level 4, Brian Wilson Chancellery,
St Lucia Campus
The University of Queensland 4072
 

If the disclosure concerns the Chief Operating Officer the disclosure should be made in writing to the Vice-Chancellor and sent to:

The Vice-Chancellor
Level 4, Brian Wilson Chancellery
St Lucia Campus
The University of Queensland 4072

OR

vc@uq.edu.au

4.1.1 Procedure for disclosure concerning Vice-Chancellor

If the disclosure concerns the Vice-Chancellor the disclosure should be made in writing to any of the following:

  • the Chief Operating Officer (as per 4.1)
  • a member of the University Senate, addressed to

“Confidential”
<Name of Senate member>
c/- Senate Executive Officer
Level 4, J D Story Building
St Lucia Campus
The University of Queensland 4072

4.2 Disclosure procedure under the Act

The Act specifies that a disclosure may always be made to:

  • the CEO i.e. the Vice-Chancellor (as in section 4.1 above)
  • the supervisor (direct or indirect) or manager of the employee making the disclosure
  • a member of the governing body  i.e. the University Senate  (as in section 4.1.1)
  • the Queensland Ombudsman (as in section 4.1.1)
  • the Crime and Corruption Commission (as in section 4.1.1)
  • a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Queensland Parliament (as in section 4.1.1).

If a supervisor or other University employee receives a Public Interest Disclosure verbally they should encourage the discloser to put the information in writing. If the discloser is unable or unwilling to do so, the supervisor or University employee should document the information being disclosed and ask the discloser to confirm the contents. The supervisor or University employee should then sign the document and refer it to the Chief Operating Officer or the Vice-Chancellor as per section 4.1.

4.3 Anonymous disclosures

A Public Interest Disclosure can be made anonymously, however this is not preferred because it may be difficult to investigate properly when the investigator cannot seek clarification or more information, and the discloser cannot be advised of progress.

4.4 Communication after lodgement of a PID

Lodgement of a PID should be acknowledged by the officer to whom the disclosure was sent.

If you have not received confirmation that your Public Interest Disclosure has been received by the University, you should contact the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit who will follow up on your matter. 

Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit
Phone (07) 3365 1366, or
email IIU@uq.edu.au.

5. Assessment of Public Interest Disclosures

Upon receipt of a Public Interest Disclosure, the Chief Operating Officer (or the Vice-Chancellor) may refer the disclosure to the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit for assessment. The assessment will consider:

  • whether the disclosure falls within the terms of the PID Act;
  • whether immediate action is required to halt the conduct or remedy the danger to which the disclosure relates;
  • whether the University is required to notify the disclosure to the Crime and Corruption Commission;
  • whether the substance of the disclosure should be dealt with under another appropriate process;
  • level of briefing with the appointed PID Case Manager.

Upon completion of the initial assessment, the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit will report to the Chief Operating Officer (or the Vice-Chancellor). If there is any doubt whether the disclosure is a Public Interest Disclosure, the Chief Operating Officer (or the Vice-Chancellor) will assume the disclosure is a Public Interest Disclosure. The Chief Operating Officer (or the Vice-Chancellor) will:

  • where a disclosure is not assessed as a Public Interest Disclosure, decide how to deal with the disclosure in accordance with University policy and procedure;
  • where appropriate, refer Public Interest Disclosures relating to corrupt conduct to the Crime and Corruption Commission;
  • where a disclosure is assessed as a Public Interest Disclosure, refer the disclosure for investigation under section 6 and appoint a suitable PID Case Manager under section 7 of these procedures.

6. Investigation of Public Interest Disclosure

The Chief Operating Officer (or Vice-Chancellor) will refer Public Interest Disclosures that require investigation to an appropriate officer for investigation. For example:

  • allegations of financial impropriety may be referred to the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit;
  • allegations of serious research misconduct may be referred to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research);
  • allegations of corrupt conduct by a University employee may be referred to the Director, Human Resources Division or the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit for investigation;
  • allegations of substantial and specific danger to public health or safety may be referred to the Director, Occupational Health and Safety; and
  • allegations of a substantial and specific danger to the environment may be referred to the Director, Property and Facilities.

7. Reprisals

7.1 What is a reprisal

Reprisal can take many forms: the personal safety of the discloser may be prejudiced; the personal property of that person may be damaged; disclosers may be faced with intimidation or harassment in the workplace and may be discriminated against or disadvantaged in their career or profession (for example, if disciplinary action is taken, a person is transferred or duties downgraded). Sometimes there may be other reasons for taking action that affects a person's interest; however, where the making of the public interest disclosure constitutes a substantial ground for taking action which might constitute a reprisal, that action taken will be unlawful under the Act.

Reprisals extend to threats made to a discloser that any of the above consequences may occur. Additionally, inducing another person to take reprisal action itself may constitute a reprisal.

7.2 Protection from reprisals

The PID Act is designed to protect the discloser from a reprisal. Taking a reprisal against a person is an indictable offence. In addition, a University employee who takes a reprisal against a discloser may be guilty of misconduct and may be disciplined and in serious cases, dismissed.

7.3 PID Case Manager

The Chief Operating Officer, or the Vice-Chancellor, will appoint a PID Case Manager for all Public Interest Disclosures that progress to investigation.

The PID Case Manager is responsible for ensuring an assessment of the risks of reprisal against a discloser is completed. This assessment is to take into account the immediate needs of the discloser to protect them against a reprisal. Where required, it may be necessary for the PID Case Manager to liaise with the relevant supervisor or head of the organisational unit in which the discloser is employed and inform them about the disclosure. The relevant supervisor or head of organisational unit may be required to monitor the workplace conduct and report any instances of harassment, ostracism or other workplace behaviour which might be construed as a reprisal.

If the discloser raises concerns about a reprisal with the PID Case Manger, or the supervisor or head of organisational unit notifies the PID Case Manager of conduct that might be construed as a reprisal, the PID Case Manager must notify the Chief Operating Officer who will determine the appropriate action to be taken.

8. Confidentiality

Section 65 of the PID Act makes it an offence for a person to make a record of, or intentionally or recklessly disclose, confidential information received in the administration of the PID Act to anyone, except where authorised by the PID Act.

Strict confidentiality is to be maintained at all times in relation to reporting and investigation of Public Interest Disclosures.

9. Responsibilities

Responsibilities for the management of Public Interest Disclosures at the University fall to:

  • the Chief Operating Officer, whose role is to be the PID Coordinator with the responsibilities provided below;
  • the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit, whose role is to undertake assessments of disclosures and to provide advice to the Chief Operating Officer;
  • the Director, Human Resources, whose role is to be the PID Case Manager in relation to disclosures made by University employees with the responsibilities provided below;
  • the Academic Registrar, whose role is to be the PID Case Manager in relation to disclosures made by University students with the responsibilities provided below;
  • the Manager, Records and Archives Management Services, whose role is to maintain the confidential records system for Public Interest Disclosures;
  • the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit, whose role is to coordinate the reporting system.

The PID Coordinator has the following responsibilities:

  • to ensure the organisation carries out its responsibilities under the PID Act;
  • to be responsible for issues related to the management of Public Interest Disclosures;
  • to refer Public Interest Disclosures to a relevant PID Case Manager;
  • where required, to appoint an investigator (whether internal or external);
  • to establish and maintain a confidential filing system;
  • to collate and publish statistics on Public Interest Disclosures;
  • to liaise with the Vice-Chancellor;
  • to liaise with the Crime and Corruption Commission; and
  • to report to the Public Service Commission.

The PID Case Manager has the following responsibilities:

  • to advise the discloser about what making a Public Interest Disclosure means;
  • to assess the immediate protection needs of the discloser;
  • to listen and respond to any concerns of harassment, intimidation or victimisation in reprisal for making a Public Interest Disclosure;
  • to coordinate and provide support to the discloser;
  • to work with management to foster a supportive work environment;
  • to advise the discloser of progress;
  • to keep records of all aspects of case management of the discloser, including all contact and follow-up action; and
  • to ensure that the expectations of the discloser are realistic.

10. Records

The PID Act requires the University to keep a proper record of Public Interest Disclosures, including reportable details, the information disclosed and any action taken on the disclosure.

All records of Public Interest Disclosures and their investigation will be kept in the official, central records system and will be kept strictly confidential. Information will not be disclosed except for the purposes of investigation or to discharge other functions under the PID Act.

11. Seeking information about the PID Act

Further information about the PID Act or the making a disclosure under the PID Act can be obtained by contacting the Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations Unit.

Custodians
Chief Operating Officer
Mr Greg Pringle
Custodians
Chief Operating Officer
Mr Greg Pringle