More questions answered


Is there a time limit on making a disclosure?

No. You can make a disclosure about matters that occurred before the commencement of the PID Act (1 July 2003). However, you cannot make a claim about victimisation that occurred before the PID Act commenced.

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How long will it take to process my disclosure?

The PID officer must inform you, within three months of making your disclosure, of what they have done or intend to do about your disclosure.

If the investigation is ongoing, then you can request a progress report. You are entitled to a report on the outcome of the investigation, and any action taken when the investigation is complete.

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How long will it take to make a disclosure?

This depends on the nature and number of matters raised by your disclosure. After you contact the PID officer, they will explain your rights and obligations under the PID Act. If you wish to make a disclosure under the PID Act, then the PID officer should assist you in identifying the disclosures that would constitute public interest information for the purposes of the PID Act. It may take more than one meeting to identify exactly what could be covered by the PID Act. Alternatively, the PID officer may receive all of your information at once, and then advise you later whether the PID Act applies to all, some or none of the matters you have raised.

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What happens after I make my disclosure?

The PID officer will examine the information and decide whether the PID Act applies. If your information is public interest information, then it must be investigated unless:

  • the matter is trivial
  • the disclosure is vexatious or frivolous
  • there is no reasonable prospect of obtaining sufficient evidence due to the time that has elapsed since the conduct occurred
  • the matter is, or has been, properly investigated under the PID Act by another proper authority

The PID officer will inform you within three months of making your disclosure, of the action taken, or proposed to be taken, on your disclosure.

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Can I withdraw a disclosure once I have made it?

No.

You don't "own" the disclosure of public interest information once you have made it, and it can’t be withdrawn. If the information you have disclosed is public interest information, then the proper authority must investigate.

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Why should I disclose?

Improper or illegal conduct by public officers, public authorities and public sector contractors is wrong. We need to maintain public confidence in the public sector.

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Do public sector policies stop me from making a disclosure?

No.

The PID Act provides that a person who makes an appropriate disclosure of public interest information is not liable for any breach of a duty of secrecy or confidentiality or any other restriction on disclosure (whether or not imposed by a written law) that applies to the person for making the disclosure.

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When will I hear about the outcome of my disclosure?

You will hear within three months of making your disclosure what action the proper authority intends to take on the matters you have disclosed. This includes whether the proper authority will investigate the matters disclosed.

Investigations take time. Given the confidentiality requirements of the PID Act, they need to be approached very carefully. During the course of an investigation, you may request progress reports and the proper authority may provide these to you. Once an investigation is completed, the proper authority must provide you with a final report on the outcome of the investigation. They need to let you know what action they have taken or propose to take as a result of the investigation, and the reason for doing so.

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What happens to the person I am making a disclosure about?

Procedural fairness (natural justice) requires that a person who is the subject of a disclosure has, at an appropriate stage, the chance to hear and respond to the substance of the allegations.

Making a public interest disclosure about the conduct of an individual is a serious matter. A person's reputation can be considerably damaged even though a subsequent investigation exonerates them. The PID Act protects the person who is subject of the disclosure. It is an offence to reveal any identifying information about them unless in certain exceptional circumstances.

If the matters are substantiated then appropriate action will be taken:

  • to prevent the matter from continuing or occurring in the future
  • to refer the matter to another investigating body, or
  • to take disciplinary action or enable disciplinary action to commence

The authority may contemplate action to prevent the matter occurring again, or take disciplinary action. In this case the subject of your disclosure will have the right to make a submission, before that action is taken. They could make their submission verbally, or in writing.

If the disclosure concerns a public authority, then the Director General or Chief Executive Officer is informed of the matters raised by the disclosure at an appropriate stage.

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Will I be guaranteed anonymity?

If you have made an appropriate disclosure of public interest information, then no-one is allowed to reveal any information that would identify or tend to identify you as a person who has made a disclosure. However, there are certain circumstances allowed under the PID Act, where your identity may have to be revealed. If identifying information is revealed, other than in accordance with the PID Act, then this constitutes an offence. This attracts a penalty of $24,000 or two years imprisonment. The circumstances under which your identity may be disclosed are:

Consent

You may consent to the disclosure of information that might identify you as a person who has made a disclosure. The PID officer may ask you for this consent, and give you a form to complete. This form allows you to give limited or unlimited consent. For example, you may wish to limit your consent to allowing the PID officer to speak to the Chief Executive Officer, to enable you to be protected from detrimental action.

Natural justice

Information that would identify or tend to identify you can be revealed where it is necessary to do so having regard to the rules of natural justice.

Before revealing your identity in these circumstances, the person making the identifying disclosure must take all reasonable steps before making the disclosure to advise you that the disclosure is to be made and the reasons for the disclosure being made.

Investigation

Your identity can also be revealed where it is necessary to do so to enable the matter to be investigated effectively. Before revealing your identity in these circumstances, the person intending to release your identity to another must take all reasonable steps before making the disclosure to advise you that the disclosure is to be made and the reasons for the disclosure being made.

Corruption and Crime Commission Act

A person can reveal information that would identify or tend to identify you if the disclosure is made in accordance with section 152 or 153 of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003.

Section 152 of the CCC Act allows an officer of the Commission to disclose information in certain circumstances. These include:

  • for the purposes of the CCC Act
  • for the purposes of a prosecution or disciplinary action, or
  • to either House of Parliament

Section 153 of the CCC Act allows other officials who receive information from a CCC officer under section 152 to disclose information in certain circumstances.

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Will my organisation know about my disclosure?

If you make your disclosure to the PID officer within your organisation, the PID officer is not able to reveal any information that would identify or tend to identify you except in certain circumstances (see Will I be guaranteed anonymity? above).

The PID officer may ask you to consent to your identity being revealed to someone else. This could be, for example, the Chief Executive Officer, who has a duty under the PID Act to protect you from detrimental action.

If you have previously raised your concerns using another avenue, such as a grievance procedure, or made your concerns public before lodging a disclosure, then it may be possible for people within your organisation to work out that you made a disclosure. In these situations, it will be very difficult to maintain confidentiality. However, the other protections in the PID Act continue to apply to protect you from detrimental action. All PID Officers are encouraged to take a risk management approach to preventing detrimental action. This will include a range of strategies to protect the discloser; confidentiality is not the only way to provide protection.

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Will the person I disclose against know that I have made a disclosure and the information I have disclosed?

The PID officer will need to advise the person who is the subject of your disclosure of the disclosures that have been made, at an appropriate stage. However, the PID officer is not permitted to reveal your identity to the person unless one of the exceptions in the PID Act applies (see Will I be guaranteed anonymity? above).

If you have previously raised your concerns using another avenue (such as a grievance procedure), then it may be possible for the subject of the disclosure to work out that you made the disclosure.

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Will I lose my job?

If you make an appropriate disclosure of public interest information, you will not as a result be liable for any disciplinary action, be dismissed, or have your services dispensed with as a result of making the disclosure.

This does not mean that the PID Act will protect you if you have engaged in improper conduct. It is the making of the disclosure that attracts the immunities.

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Will my disclosure affect my future career opportunities or development?

The PID Act defines detrimental action to include action involving adverse discrimination, disadvantage or treatment in relation to a person’s career, profession or employment, trade or business.

If you are subjected to detrimental action because you have made, or intend to make an appropriate disclosure under the PID Act, then you can take one of two courses of action. You can make a complaint to the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity about the victimisation you have experienced. Alternatively, you can commence civil proceedings against the person who has taken the detrimental action, or the employer of the person who has taken the detrimental action.

Any person who takes, or threatens to take, detrimental action against another because they have made or intend to make a disclosure of public interest information commits an offence of reprisal. This attracts a penalty of $24,000 or imprisonment for two years.

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What happens if I disclose false information?

If you knowingly disclose false or misleading information, or are reckless about whether the information is false or misleading, then you will commit an offence under the PID Act which attracts a penalty of $12,000 or imprisonment for one year.

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What if someone takes detrimental action against me?

Under the PID Act, detrimental action or the threat of detrimental action against a person who intends or has made a disclosure of public interest information is not permitted. This type of action constitutes an offence and attracts a penalty of $24,000 or two years imprisonment.

If someone takes detrimental against you, you should notify your PID officer immediately. They can act to prevent the detrimental action from continuing.

You also have two options:

  • make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission about the victimisation you have experienced; or
  • commence civil action against the perpetrator of the detrimental action or their employer.

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Will I be legally liable if I do not make a disclosure?

The PID Act does not require people to make disclosures if they become aware of improper or unlawful conduct within their organisation.

If you are concerned about making a disclosure under the PID Act you may wish to make your disclosure anonymously. Alternatively, if the matter could constitute misconduct, you may wish to lodge a complaint, with the Corruption and Crime Commission.

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If I make a disclosure, are there any obligations on me?

Yes. After making a public interest disclosure, you must:

  • assist the person investigating your disclosure when requested to do so
  • not disclose any information contained in your disclosure to any other person, otherwise you may lose the immunities provided by the PID Act
  • not reveal any information that would identify or tend to identify the subject of your disclosure otherwise you will breach the confidentiality provisions

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Do I need to provide evidence to support my disclosure?

At the time you make your disclosure, you must believe on reasonable grounds that the information you have is, or may be, true. False or misleading disclosures attract a penalty. It will help an authority to proceed with your disclosure if you supply any supporting documentation, names of witnesses, and relevant dates when the alleged conduct occurred. Also, the person investigating your disclosure may ask you to supply any information that would assist the investigation. Failure to cooperate without a reasonable excuse could result in you forfeiting the legal immunities that the PID Act has provided you.

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What is a PID officer?

A public interest disclosure officer, or PID officer, is a person within a public authority who has been designated by the principal executive officer to receive disclosures about matters within that authority’s sphere of responsibility. The PID officer can also provide general advice about making a disclosure under the PID Act.

All PID officers are bound by the PID Act Code of Conduct and Integrity.

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How can I find the relevant PID officer in my organisation?

The name of your PID officer may be on your organisation’s phone list, intranet site, internet site or staff noticeboard. Every public authority covered by the PID Act is required to publish internal procedures about dealing with public interest disclosures and the name of your PID officer should be included.

If you can’t find the name of your PID officer, contact the PSC Advisory Line on 6552 8888 for further information.

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Can I make a disclosure under the PID Act to someone other than a proper authority?

No. To obtain the protections available under the PID Act, you must make your disclosure to a proper authority. If you make a disclosure to someone who is not a PID officer within a proper authority, then the PID Act will not apply, and you will not be protected.

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Can I appeal against the findings?

No. The PID Act does not provide for a right of appeal or review for a discloser. You can make your disclosure to another proper authority if you have evidence that the matter has not been properly investigated. However, that proper authority can refuse to investigate it on the basis that this has already been done by the original proper authority.

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Can I use another system or method to make my disclosure?

To obtain the protection under the Act you can only make a disclosure of public interest information to a proper authority. Disclosures to another person, such as another member of staff within your organisation who is not a PID officer, or a journalist, will not be covered by the PID Act and you will not be protected.

If you do not wish to obtain the protection that the PID Act provides or PID Act does not apply to the information you have, you may wish to raise your concerns using your organisation’s grievance or complaints procedures (where appropriate). If you are not employed by the organisation where the matter occurred, you can approach the organisation’s complaints procedure.

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What can I do if I am not happy with the process undertaken to deal with my disclosure?

If you are not happy with the process followed by the proper authority to deal with your disclosure, you may make another public interest disclosure to the Ombudsman about the administrative aspects of the process. If you believe that the proper authority has not complied with the PID Act, you can also report the matter to the Public Sector Commissioner. It is their job to monitor compliance with the PID Act and PID Code of Conduct and Integrity.

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Who are the proper authorities?

A proper authority means a person or body to whom an appropriate disclosure of public interest information has been made in accordance with section 5(3) of the PID Act. For a list of the proper authorities refer to Where can I make a disclosure?

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What is the difference between making a complaint and a disclosure?

Making a complaint generally refers to using an existing process within an organisation to raise a concern about a service or product or dissatisfaction with a decision about an issue which affects you personally.

Making a Public Interest Disclosure generally refers to reporting a matter of public interest about wrongdoing within an organisation to a "proper authority" as outlined in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 to an internal integrity-type officer, external person or body.

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Is making a disclosure dobbing?

No.

Reporting improper and unlawful conduct is necessary to ensure that government remains open and accountable, and to make sure that we maintain public confidence in the public sector.

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Can make a disclosure anonymously?

Yes, so long as you make your disclosure to a proper authority, and clearly indicate that you are intending to make a disclosure under the PID Act. If you make an anonymous disclosure, then the requirements on the PID officer to notify you will obviously not apply.

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What is the difference between anonymity and confidentiality?

Confidentiality used in the context of the PID Act refers to the protections that apply to the use of information that would identify or tend to identify the person who made the disclosure or the subject of the disclosure.

Anonymity is not guaranteed by the PID Act as identifying information can be revealed in certain circumstances.

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Does a confidentiality clause in my contract of employment prevent me from making a disclosure?

No.

If you make an appropriate disclosure of public interest information under the PID Act, you are not liable for any breach of a duty of secrecy or confidentiality or any other restriction on disclosure (whether or not imposed by a written law) applicable to you.

For general advice about making a disclosure call the PSC Advisory Line on 6552 8888.

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Page last updated 28 September 2012