What is a Public Interest Disclosure?
A public interest disclosure is a complaint or allegation made about corrupt conduct, improper conduct or detrimental action.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012 (PID Act), enables people to make disclosures without fear of reprisal. The PID Act aims to ensure openness and accountability by encouraging people to make disclosures and protecting them when they do.
The PID Act supports DEECA's commitment to the principles of open, honest and accountable governance. The PID Act:
- encourages and assists individuals in making disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies
- establishes a system for such matters to be confidentially disclosed and impartially investigated
- provides the discloser with protection from detrimental action as a result of making the disclosure.
Corrupt or improper conduct is described within the PID Act as:
- Corrupt conduct and/or
- any of the following conduct by a public officer or public body in their capacity as a public officer or public body:
- criminal offence
- serious professional misconduct
- dishonest performance of public functions
- intentional or reckless breach of public trust
- an intentional or reckless misuse of information
- an intentional or reckless misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of public functions
- a substantial mismanagement of public resources
- a substantial risk to health or safety of a person
- a substantial risk to the environment
- conduct by a third party that adversely affects the honest performance of a public officer or public body or is intended to adversely affect effective performance of a public officer or public body while obtaining an advantage for the third party, and/or
- conduct by a third party that could constitute a conspiracy or attempt to engage in any of the above
Corrupt conduct includes:
- taking or offering bribes
- dishonestly using influence
- committing fraud, theft or embezzlement
- misusing information or material acquired at work
- conspiring or attempting to engage in the above corrupt activity.
Corruption can occur through:
- improper or unlawful actions by public sector staff or agencies
- failure of public sector staff or agencies to act
- actions of private individuals who try to improperly influence public sector functions or decisions.
How is a Public Interest Disclosure handled?
If you submit your disclosure to DEECA, it will be assessed against the criteria provided by the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC). If your disclosure meets these criteria, it will be referred to IBAC for assessment to determine if it is a Public Interest Complaint (PIC).
IBAC must dismiss, investigate or refer the disclosure to another body to investigate (often to the Victorian Ombudsman, or with your consent back to the department).
IBAC may also determine that the complaint does not meet the criteria of a PIC and refer it back to DEECAto be investigated.
For more information, please refer to the attached guide:
What protections do I have if I make a Public Interest Disclosure?
A person who makes a disclosure that becomes a PIC is assured confidentiality and protection from reprisal or detrimental action.
If your complaint is assessed as a public interest disclosure (PIC), IBAC offer the following legal protections:
- IBAC will never publicise your name
- you and your family, friends and colleagues will be protected from being fired or bullied for making a complaint
- you will receive protection from defamation and detrimental action in reprisal for making a public interest disclosure
- you will receive immunity from:
- civil or criminal liability as well as administrative action (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure
- committing an offence under the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) or any other Act that imposes obligations of confidentiality or otherwise restricts the disclosure of information
- breaching any other obligation (made by oath or rule of law or practice) requiring the maintenance of confidentiality or otherwise restricting the disclosure of information.
The department understands that the welfare of disclosers and the provision of protection against reprisals for them and their families is essential to enable individuals to come forward and to support the operation of the PID Act.
Public Interest Disclosure Coordinators are trained to understand the impact on your wellbeing and an emphasis is placed on supporting your welfare. Disclosures are handled confidentially by the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinators who will keep you updated throughout the assessment of your disclosure.
It is in your best interests to keep your disclosure confidential to minimise your risk of detrimental action (for example, discrimination or other adverse treatment). Only discuss it and related matters with authorised persons in DEECA such as the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinators, or IBAC when it has been referred to them. You may also discuss the matter with other support persons such as your spouse or partner, counsellor or health professional, but you are strongly advised to seek confirmation with IBAC to confirm this if a confidentiality notice has been provided.
How do I make a Public Interest Disclosure?
Any person can make a disclosure of suspected improper conduct about DEECA or its employees or the improper conduct of a member of the public in relation to the department’s operation. You may remain anonymous if you wish.
Telephone: 1800 903 877
In writing to DEECA: on an envelope marked “Private and Confidential: for Addressee Only” to:
Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator
PO Box 500
East Melbourne 8002
Directly to IBAC
Level 1, North Tower
459 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
GPO Box 24234, Melbourne, VIC 3001
IBAC Telephone: 1300 735 135
IBAC Website: www.ibac.vic.gov.au
Page last updated: 08/01/23