In February 2013, the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 was replaced with the Protected Disclosure Act 2012. This is part of reforms in Victoria to promote integrity and accountability across the public sector. A new body, called the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) will oversee this new legislation.
What is the Protected Disclosure Act 2012?
The Protected Disclosure Act 2012 enables people to make disclosures about improper conduct within the public sector without fear of reprisal. The Act aims to ensure openness and accountability by encouraging people to make disclosures and protecting them when they do so.
What is a Protected Disclosure?
Council's Protected Disclosure Procedures outline in detail what is a protected disclosure but in summary the following apply:
The expectation is that public officers will not use their positions for personal advantage, or use the influence of their public office for improper purposes where there is a duty to act objectively and impartially.
The conduct of any person that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer or public body of his, her or its functions as a public officer or public body -
- conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves the dishonest performance of his or her or its functions as a public officer or public body;
- conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves knowingly or recklessly breaching public trust;
- conduct of a public officer or a public body that involves the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of his or her or its functions as a public officer or public body, whether or not for the benefit of the public officer or public body or any other person.
Specified conduct is any one of the above types of conduct or conduct that involves substantial mismanagement of public resources, risk to public health or safety, or risk to the environment, which would not constitute 'corrupt conduct' but would nevertheless, if proved, constitute either:
- a criminal offence; or
- reasonable grounds for dismissing or terminating the employment of the officer who engaged in or is engaging in that conduct.
It is an offence to take detrimental action against a discloser in reprisal for making a protected disclosure. This can include action causing injury, loss or damage, intimidation or harassment, discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to a person's employment, career, profession, trade or business, including the taking of disciplinary action.
In addition, a person can have taken detrimental action without having taken the action itself, but just by threatening to take such action. Further, the detrimental action need not necessarily have been taken (or threatened to be taken) against a person making a protected disclosure, but against any person connected with a protected disclosure.
If a report of improper conduct or corrupt behaviour is assessed by the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) as being a protected disclosure, IBAC will undertake the investigation into the allegations.
Mitchell Shire Council's approach to Protected Disclosure
Mitchell Shire Council does not tolerate corrupt or improper conduct by its employees, officers or contractors, nor reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct.
Employees, Contractors and members of the public are encouraged to report known or suspected incidences of corrupt or improper conduct.
Mitchell Shire Council will take all reasonable steps to protect people who make disclosures without the fear of reprisal. All information relating to a protected disclosure is limited to the Chief Executive Officer and nominated officers.
Mitchell Shire Council will also afford natural justice to the person who is the subject of the disclosure. Where required, welfare officers will be available to provide support.
How do I make a disclosure?
Protected Disclosures may be made by employees, contractors, Councillors or by members of the public.
Part 2 of the Act provides that a person may make a disclosure:
- In writing
- Electronically; or
Protected Disclosures may relate to corrupt or improper conduct by:
- The organisation
- Employees of Mitchell Shire Council
- Councillors of Mitchell Shire Council
Mitchell Shire Council can only address disclosures that relate to Mitchell Shire Council. Protected Disclosures about Councillors of Mitchell Shire Council can only be made to IBAC.
Who Do I Contact?
Council has appointed the following co-ordinator as a contact for taking reports of improper or corrupt behaviour:
Director Corporate Services
113 High Street, Broadford VIC 3658
Phone: 5734 6250
Mobile: 0447 223 745
Disclosures may also be made directly to IBAC (all disclosures relating to Councillors must be made directly to IBAC):
Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission
Address: GPO Box 24234, Melbourne Victoria 3000
Phone: 1300 735 135
Protected Disclosure Procedures
Council has developed procedures for dealing with protected disclosures and these are available for download in the table below.
Please note that these procedures relate to serious allegations of improper or corrupt behaviour. Council's normal complaint management process should be used for all other complaints.
For further information and guidance on the new legislation or any other related matters, please refer to the links below. You can also contact the officers in the "Who do I Contact "section above.