Public Interest Disclosure
What is a Public Interest Disclosure?
A Public Interest Disclosure (PID) is a report of a suspected wrongdoing or danger. For an allegation, to be considered a PID and attract the protections under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2010, it must be:
- Public interest information about substantial and specific wrongdoing or danger
- An appropriate disclosure
- Made to a proper authority
What can a public interest disclosure be about?
Under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2010, only some kinds of information are 'public interest disclosures'.
Any person, including public sector employees, can make a public interest disclosure about:
- danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability
- danger to the environment caused by commission of an offence or contravention of a condition in certain environmental legislation
- reprisal after making a public interest disclosure
A public sector officer can also make a public interest disclosure about:
- corrupt conduct
- maladministration that adversely affects someone's interest in a substantial and specific way
- a substantial misuse of public resources
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
- a substantial and specific danger to the environment
Section 12 and 13 of the PID Act provide more information about what is public interest information when making a public interest disclosure. If a disclosure is not a public interest disclosure, it may still be in an important complaint.
PID must be an appropriate disclosure
An appropriate disclosure meets the subjective and objective tests set out in the PID Act. This means:
- the discloser honestly and reasonably believes the information provided tends to show the conduct or danger; or
- the information tends to show the conduct or danger regardless of the discloser’s belief
PID must be made to a Proper Authority
Proper authorities are persons and organisations authorised under the PID Act to receive public interest disclosures. Examples of proper authorities are:
- The public sector organisation that is the subject of the PID (for example, Councils)
- An agency that has authority to investigate the matter (for example, Queensland Ombudsman, the Crime and Corruption Commission)
- A Member of the Legislative Assembly (an MP)
Disclosures to other agencies
Alternatively, you can make your disclosure to the Queensland Ombudsman, if it concerns maladministration or a waste of public funds or a Member of Parliament.
Level 18, 53 Albert Street, Brisbane
GPO Box 3314, Brisbane Qld 4001
Telephone: (07) 3005 7000 Free call: 1800 068 908 (toll-free outside Brisbane)
Contact information and online options: http://www.ombudsman.qld.gov.au/about-us/contact-us
Crime and Corruption Commission
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Mail: GPO Box 3123, Brisbane, Qld 4001
In-person: Level 2, North Tower Green Square, 515 St Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley
By Phone: (07) 3360 6060 Toll-free (in Queensland outside Brisbane): 1800 061 611
Is Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council the proper authority for my PID?
Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council would be authorised to receive a PID where:
- The disclosure is about the conduct of Council or its employees; or
- Council is responsible for investigating particular issues (e.g. the Crime and Corruption Commission can receive PIDs about Corrupt Conduct)
Does Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council have a policy regarding PIDs?
Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council has adopted a Policy and Procedure & Management Plan to ensure the appropriate handling of PIDs.
How do I make a PID?
Any person may choose to make a disclosure through the external reporting avenue.
A PID can be made orally or in writing.
- To make your PID in writing address your PID to the PID Coordinator (C/- of the Chief Executive Officer) and clearly mark the sealed envelope as Public Interest Disclosure - Private and Confidential.
- You can also phone Council on (07) 47452200 and ask for Councils PID Coordinator.
- The PID Coordinator will assess your disclosure, and if it does not fit the criteria of a PID, it will be dealt with under Council's complaints management process
Council Personnel wishing to make a PID should do so using the internal reporting avenue in the first instance, with disclosures made to either:
- The PID Coordinator; or
- The Chief Executive Officer
Council Personnel may choose to make a disclosure in any form including:
- Verbally (in person or via telephone);
- In writing (for example, by letter or email);
- Anonymously; or
- Through an authorised third party (for example, legal counsel or union representative)
What if I want to make an anonymous PID?
You can make an anonymous PID. Remaining anonymous means you do not identify yourself as the discloser at any stage to anyone. However, anonymous PIDs are often more difficult to investigate. Council strongly encourages disclosers to identify themselves if possible.
If you do identify yourself to the person who receives your PID, Council shall make every effort to keep your identity confidential. Remember that Council will not be able to inform you of any action it takes if you remain anonymous.
If the disclosure is anonymous and enough information is provided, Council is committed to act upon the disclosure.
Information to disclose
To ensure a comprehensive and successful investigation of a perceived wrongdoing, persons making a PID are encouraged to provide all known information that might be relevant including:
- The circumstances of the incident/matter including dates, times and locations;
- The details of Council Personnel or others involved; and
- Possible sources of additional information or evidence, e.g. other people or files. A person may make a public interest disclosure about -
- Events that happened or may have happened, whether before or after the commencement of the Act; or
- Events that are or may be happening; or
- Events that will or may happen
What are my responsibilities as a discloser?
When making a PID, you have a responsibility to:
- Provide honest and accurate information - deliberately providing false or misleading information is an offence;
- Provide all information currently in your possession - you must not seek to investigate the matter yourself; and
- Make the disclosure to someone you reasonably believe is the proper authority to receive the disclosure
What is a reprisal?
Reprisal occurs if a person causes or attempts to cause detriment to you, because they believe you:
- Have made, or intend to make a PID; or
- Have participated in, or intend to participate in procedures under the PID Act
Those who make a PID will be afforded reasonable protection from reprisals.
- When a disclosure is made, the Council will assess the risk of reprisal and offer the discloser appropriate support. If the discloser has been involved in the wrongdoing they may be subject to criminal proceedings and disciplinary action.
- No protection is afforded to those who make disclosures to the media or via means not stated in the Act
Strict confidentiality requirements apply to PIDS. Confidential PID information can be recorded or disclosed:
- To administer the PID Act or to discharge a function under another Act (for example, to investigate something disclosed by a public interest disclosure)
- For a proceeding in a court tribunal
- With the consent of the person the information relates to (or if the consent of the person cannot be reasonably obtained, if the information is unlikely to harm the interests of the person) or
- If it is essential under the principles of natural justice and reprisal is unlikely.
Public interest disclosures to journalists
Persons who have previously disclosed a PID are allowed to disclose the same PID to a journalist only under the following pre-conditions;
- Council has decided not to investigate or deal with the disclosure; or
- Council investigated the disclosure but did not recommend the taking of any action to the disclosure; or
- Council did not notify the person, within a six (6) month period after the date the disclosure was made, whether or not the disclosure was to be investigated or dealt with
Where do I get more information?
- For more information refer to Council's PID Policy and Procedure & Management Plan.
- The Queensland Ombudsman is the oversight body of Public Sector agencies for PIDs and Fact sheets and information guidelines regarding PIDs and your rights and obligations under the PID Act are available from The Queensland Ombudsman.
- Visit the Queensland Government's website on the conduct and performance relating to ethics and other matters - https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/conduct-and-performance