Public Interest Disclosure
A person who suspects serious wrongdoing within a government agency can make a complaint. A disclosure or complaint to an official may constitute a public interest disclosure (PID) providing it meets a range of specific requirements.
All ACT Government agencies have responsibilities under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012 (PID Act)to investigate suspected wrongdoing and take appropriate action.
ACT Integrity Commissioner oversees the management of PIDs in the ACT public sector. It is the Integrity Commissioner who determines whether a disclosure or complaint constitutes a PID. To determine this, the Integrity Commissioner needs to be satisfied that:
(i) it is about disclosable conduct
(ii) the disclosure is in the public interest and
(iii) it is not frivolous or vexatious.
If the disclosure is determined to be a PID, the Integrity Commissioner decides which agency is to handle the matter.
What is a Public Interest Disclosure?
Activities that can be the subject of a PID include activities that are:
- maladministration (which is in essence substantial mismanagement), or
- conduct that poses a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or the environment.
What is not a Public Interest Disclosure?
A disclosure that is about
(a) conduct which relates to a personal work-related grievance of the person disclosing the conduct; or
(b) conduct that gives effect to a policy of the Territory about amounts, purposes or priorities of public expenditure;
is not a PID.
Who can make a Public Interest Disclosure?
Any person may make a PID.
What protections are there for people making a Public Interest Disclosure?
People who make a PID receive certain protections under the PID Act, including immunity from liability and protection from detrimental action. There can be serious consequences for people or agencies who take detrimental action against a person for making a disclosure under the PID Act.
Who can receive a PID?
Every ACT government agency has a designated disclosure officer who is appointed to receive PIDs.
They can also be made to
(i) the Public Sector Standards Commissioner; or
(ii) the head of service; or
(iii) the Auditor-General; or
(iv) the Ombudsman; or
(v) the Integrity Commissioner; or
(vi) the head of an ACTPS entity.
How to make a disclosure or a complaint to the ACT Ombudsman
- receive disclosures
- investigate 'disclosable conduct' referred to us by the Integrity Commissioner
- consider complaints about how a PID has been investigated or handled by an agency (but not the Integrity Commissioner).
You can make a disclosure or a complaint about the handling or investigation of a PID by an ACT government agency to the ACT Ombudsman by emailing us at PID@ombudsman.gov.au or calling us on 1300 362 072.
When writing a disclosure it is important to keep it simple and stick to the main facts. Be as specific as possible when recalling dates, names and other important details.
You can make your disclosure anonymously. It is important to be aware this may make it more difficult for the appropriate agency to investigate your disclosure.
What we do when we receive your disclosure or complaint
If you make a disclosure to the Ombudsman we will decide if your disclosure is about disclosable conduct and is disclosed in good faith. If so, we will provide your disclosure to the Integrity Commissioner. The Commission will decide if it is a PID.
If you make a complaint to us about the handling of your PID, we will consider whether to investigate. If we decide to investigate, we will consider whether the agency’s actions and decisions were consistent with its obligations under the PID Act. Generally we will not reinvestigate the matters disclosed in the PID.
Complaints about the Integrity Commissioner must be made to the Inspector of the Integrity Commission.