Public Interest Disclosure
What is a Public Interest Disclosure (PID)?
A PID is also known as “whistleblowing “
The Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 is a form of whistle-blower protection legislation and applies to all public officials in NSW.
What is a whistle-blower?
A whistle-blower is someone with inside knowledge of an organisation who reports misconduct, dishonesty or illegal activity that may be occurring, or have occurred within the organisation.
Why report a Public Interest Disclosure?
All University of Newcastle staff members, which includes professional and academic staff of the University, and conjoint’s are considered public officials. This means if you suspect, or become aware of any fraud, corruption, misconduct or maladministration in relation to any aspect of the University’s operations, it is a matter of public interest and you have a responsibility to report it.
Our corporate values are set out in our Code of Conduct and are supported by the UON Ethical Framework, and include honesty and accountability which underpin the work we do to prevent wrongdoing, fraud and corruption. The University of Newcastle does not tolerate corrupt conduct and takes any reports of such behaviour very seriously.
You are strongly encouraged to report inappropriate behaviours, in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. The University has established policy and structures to protect and support whistle-blowers to ensure you are not disadvantaged, penalised, defamed or precluded for raising your concern. To be afforded this protection, it is important you report your concerns to the appropriate senior staff. This information is available at: Public Interest Disclosure Policy
To report a PID please complete the Internal PID Report Form.
Thinking about ‘blowing the whistle'?
If you suspect or become aware that something is wrong it is important you read the information that follows to assist you in reporting the wrongdoing and ensure you are protected from potential recrimination or reprisal. You can also call the University’s confidential Fraud and Corruption Reporting Hotline for advice and guidance - phone 4913 8037.
What you should do if you suspect wrongdoing
If you want to maintain protection under the Public Interest Disclosures Act, it is important that you report your concerns following the process outlined in UON's Public Interest Disclosures Policy. Public interest disclosures include allegations of:
- corrupt conduct
- serious and substantial waste of public money
- failure to exercise functions in accordance with the GIPA Act
- other serious misconduct
For other complaints or concerns, for example the way someone’s behaviour is affecting you as an individual employee or general complaints of dissatisfaction, you should follow UON’s complaints and grievances processes. If you are unsure which process to follow, always contact a Disclosure Officer or the Disclosures Coordinator.
Details of these officers are available in the Public Interest Disclosures Policy.
To be protected, you have to report to the right person in the right way. You can choose to report to:
- The Disclosures Coordinator – Director Assurance Services
- A nominated Disclosures Officer – named in the Public Interest Disclosure Policy
- The Vice Chancellor
A confidential UON reporting hotline is available if you would like advice, guidance or information - phone 4913 8037.
If you are not comfortable reporting internally, you can report to an external authority:
At any time, you can seek confidential advice from the Disclosures Coordinator or a nominated Disclosures Officer. To make a formal report you should:
- Download and fill out the Internal Report Form. You can choose to make your disclosure anonymously (leave sections blank where indicated on the form), or should you choose to include your details, where possible and appropriate confidentiality will be maintained throughout the process.
- Submit the completed Internal Report form to the Disclosures Coordinator or a nominated Disclosures Officer (refer to the Public Interest Disclosure Policy for details).
- Continue to act with discretion. Don’t telegraph your disclosure and if you are concerned about potential reprisal, make this known when you submit your report.
You can also seek advice, guidance and support via UON's confidential Fraud and Corruption Hotline - phone 4913 8037.
Once you have submitted your Internal Report form, this is what you can expect:
Note: if you submit your report directly to the Disclosures Coordinator, the process beings from step 4.
- A nominated Disclosures Officer receives the disclosure;
- They inform you of the process, offer you support and ensure the details of your report are properly documented - you will be asked to support the investigation by providing as much factual information as possible;
- The disclosure is sent to the Disclosures Coordinator for assessment;
- You then receive an acknowledgement in writing;
- A risk analysis is undertaken;
- The allegation will be investigated - we review allegations of fraud and corruption in accordance with the ICAC Act. We make every effort to ensure that investigations are conducted impartially, fairly, expediently and discreetly. Where appropriate, we appoint experienced investigators, either internally or externally, to perform investigations. Investigators will have no conflicts of interest that may impact or alter the course of the investigation;
- You will be updated periodically on the progress of the investigation;
- Any identified subjects of the disclosure will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations;
- All parties will be informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation and any subsequent action that will be taken.
Under The Act it is an offence to take detrimental action against a person in reprisal for making a disclosure. This principle applies to all complaints handling at UON, but the Public Interest Disclosures Act provides you with a formal legal protection.
If you report correctly you will normally be offered the following protection:
- Confidentiality where possible and appropriate. Your confidentiality will normally be protected throughout the investigation process. However, in some instances, given the nature and circumstances of the event or action being reported, your identity may become apparent or can reasonably be deduced. In some cases, it may be necessary in fairness to the other person that your identity be revealed. If this is the case, the issues will be discussed with you prior to any action being taken.
- Protection from detrimental action like disciplinary action, intimidation or harassment, discrimination or adverse treatment as a result of your disclosure.
- You have the right to legal action if detrimental action occurs as a result of your disclosure
- Legal defence against defamation or breech of confidence
If some form of detrimental action is experienced, that should be reported at the first opportunity to the Disclosure Coordinator so that remedial action can be taken.
Allegations and investigations
If you are not a nominated Disclosures Officer and you suspect that a complaint or report you have received could fall into the category of a Public Interest Disclosure you should inform the person that you aren’t authorised to receive the complaint and direct them to a nominated Disclosures Officer or the Disclosures Coordinator.
Details of these officers are available in the Public Interest Disclosure Policy.
It is important that these types of reports are made to the right people, using the right process to ensure the whistle blower is afforded the appropriate protections.
- If a preliminary assessment of the allegation finds no evidence to support the allegation, you will not be advised of the matter.
- If evidence is found and further review is required, you will be informed of the allegation and what is required of you.
- It is a requirement as an employee of the University that you will cooperate with the process.
- The University will make every effort to ensure confidentiality is maintained throughout the investigation process. Investigations are conducted fairly and without bias.
- You may be asked to make statements and/or contribute information.
- As a staff member, you must cooperate with the process.
- The University will support your contribution by ensuring you are not discriminated against or harassed as a result of your cooperation.
The Disclosures Coordinator is available to offer help, advice and support.
You can also call the Fraud and Corruption Reporting Hotline for confidential advice, guidance and information on 4913 8037.
The NSW Ombudsman also offers a suite of excellent fact sheets, guidelines and e-learning resources that you can access.
- Fact Sheet - Thinking about reporting serious wrongdoing?
- PID e-learning modules - PID Awareness and PID Reporting
- General PID information - various information