720 Making a Public Interest Disclosure - TAFE Queensland

Skip links and keyboard navigation



Site navigation

720 Making a Public Interest Disclosure

1. Purpose

Provides a process for the management of TAFE Queensland public interest disclosures.

2. Overview

TAFE Queensland is dedicated to promoting the public interest by facilitating disclosures of wrongdoing. TAFE Queensland will ensure that public interest disclosures (PIDs) are correctly assessed and, when appropriate, thoroughly investigated and dealt with in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld).

TAFE Queensland will also ensure that suitable protections are provided to employees who make disclosures about suspected wrongdoing to a proper authority within TAFE Queensland, in accordance with the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service and the Working with TAFE: Conduct, Ethics and Performance Policy, and that appropriate consideration is given to the interests of employees who are subject to a PID.

Accountability:

The Chief Human Resources Officer is accountable for ensuring the management and maintenance of this procedure, including ensuring its continued appropriateness to the business, compliance with legislation and external requirements, and periodic review.

TAFE Queensland Executives are responsible for administering PID's under the terms of this procedure.

3. Audience

3.1 This policy applies to TAFE Queensland's;

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Corporate Office Staff
  • Regional Staff
  • Students
  • Members of the public

4. Process

Making a Public Interest Disclosure:

4.1 A PID can be made verbally or in writing to a proper authority, and may also be provided anonymously.

4.2 An anonymous disclosure will be treated in the same way as disclosures made by individuals who identify themselves when making the disclosure. It should be noted, however, that anonymous disclosures are often more difficult to investigate.

4.3 Where an employee receives a public PID it should be forwarded to the Chief Human Resource Officer (this may occur through a regional Human Resources/People and Culture team or Executive as appropriate).

4.4 TAFE Queensland's preferred avenues for receiving PID's are:

By email: peopleintafe@tafeqld.edu.au

By post: Chief Human Resources Officer
TAFE Queensland
PO Box 15033, City East Qld 4002
Phone: (07) 3514 3648

4.5 Any person can disclose information if they honestly believe the information they have is about:

  1. A substantial and specific danger to the health and/or safety of a person with a disability;
  2. A substantial and specific danger to the environment; or
  3. The conduct of any other person that could, if proved, be a reprisal.

4.6 A public officer (employee) may also make a disclosure about the conduct of another person that, if proven, could be considered:

  1. Corrupt conduct;
  2. Maladministration that adversely affects a person's interests in a substantial and specific way;
  3. Substantial misuse of public resources; or
  4. A danger to public health and/or safety.

4.7 A person must not intentionally make false and misleading disclosures. Discloser protections are not extended to those who intentionally make a PID that they know is false. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) imposes sentences of up to two years imprisonment for such offences and, in addition, an employee who makes a false, misleading or vexatious disclosure may be subject to disciplinary action.

4.8 Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) a discloser may make a PID to a journalist if they have already made essentially the same disclosure to a public sector entity that is a 'proper authority' and:

  1. The entity has decided not to investigate or deal with the disclosure;
  2. The entity investigated the disclosure but did not recommend taking any action; or
  3. The discloser was not notified within six months of making the disclosure whether or not the disclosure was to be investigated or dealt with.

Assessment and Management of Public Interest Disclosures:

4.9 Upon receipt of a disclosure of information by a proper authority that potentially could be a PID, the proper authority is to notify the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) as soon as practicable. All relevant material or evidence relating to the disclosure should be forwarded along with the disclosure.

4.10 The existence of a PID does not preclude a manager from taking reasonable management action.

4.11 The CHRO will assess whether the complaint constitutes a PID and determine the most appropriate action to deal with the disclosure:

  1. If a PID does not relate to TAFE Queensland, the CHRO will forward the complaint to the proper authority;
  2. If a complaint is assessed as a PID, it is to be forwarded to the Witness Support Officer (WSO) and investigating officer to manage;
  3. If a complaint is assessed as corrupt conduct, the CHRO will notify the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in accordance with the Crime and Corruption Act 2001;
  4. If a complaint does not constitute a PID, information will still be received, assessed and addressed through the appropriate TAFE Queensland policy or procedure.

4.12 The CHRO will provide written outcome advice, including any action taken and reasons for the decision, to the PID discloser. This includes a decision not to take further action.

Risk Assessment, Support and Protection from Reprisals:

4.13 Upon receipt of a PID, the CHRO and the WSO will conduct a risk assessment to determine the level of protection and support required in relation to the risk of reprisal against the discloser and others associated with the discloser.

4.14 An individual may make a PID if they believe that a person has caused, attempted to cause or conspired to cause detriment to another person in the belief that the person or someone else has made, or intends to make, a PID.

4.15 The WSO will contact the discloser and provide written advice of:

  1. The outcome of the assessment;
  2. The proposed protective measures;
  3. The likely timeframes; the protections available under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld);
  4. The importance of confidentiality except where disclosure is permitted by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld); and
  5. How they will be updated throughout the process; and who to contact if they require further information or are concerned about reprisal.

4.16 The CHRO will implement appropriate protective measures including, but not limited to, suspension or temporary relocation.

4.17 The WSO will provide regular follow-up contact by agreement with the discloser and, where safe to do so, maintain records of the details of all PIDs.

4.18 The discloser must advise the nominated internal WSO or manager if they believe that reprisal action is being or has been taken against them.

4.19 If notified that reprisal action may be or has been taken, the CHRO will refer the matter to the CCC for assessment and advise as to the action to be taken. The WSO will then make contact with the discloser to review the risk of reprisal and implement any necessary protective measures.

4.20 An allegation of reprisal action will be managed as a PID and/or disciplinary matter in its own right.

Confidentiality:

4.21 Any person who acquires confidential information as a result of their involvement with a PID must not make a record of or disclose the information to anyone other than:

  1. As required by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld);
  2. For a court or tribunal proceeding;
  3. With the written consent of the employee to which the confidential material applies;
  4. If the person reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to provide for the safety or welfare of a person; or
  5. If authorised under a regulation or Act.

5. Responsibilities

Chief Executive Officer:

5.1 Model ethical behaviour and foster an environment that supports employees to make PID's.

5.2 Ensure appropriate training, and awareness strategies and control systems are implemented to effectively prevent and efficiently respond to suspected wrongdoing, including matters of suspected corrupt conduct.

5.3 Ensure the legislative requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) are met.

Chief Human Resources Officer:

5.4 Ensure that all legislative obligations in relation to reporting and investigation are met.

5.5 Report on PID data to the Queensland Ombudsman, as the oversight agency, when required.

5.6 Oversee the collection and recording of pertinent information into the relevant database.

5.7 Provide recommendations arising from PID investigations to the relevant parties.

5.8 Assess disclosures to determine if the information meets the PID criteria.

5.9 Determine appropriate action to be taken in relation to the disclosure.

5.10 Appoint an Investigator and/or Witness Support Officer as required.

5.11 Ensure the PID is managed in a timely manner and in accordance with the legislative requirements.

5.12 Ensure any relevant policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and that PID outcomes inform improvements.

Witness Support Officer:

5.13 Provide the discloser with appropriate communication.

5.14 Act as a first point of contact for the discloser.

5.15 Provide appropriate support and protection to the discloser.

Manager/Supervisor:

5.16 Maintain and demonstrate a workplace culture that values positive ethical standards, professionalism, integrity and diligence, and creates a supportive reporting environment that encourages employees to report concerns about wrongdoing.

5.17 Provide appropriate confidential support to employees who report suspected wrongdoing.

5.18 Implement appropriate controls to prevent harm to TAFE Queensland’s assets and resources.

5.19 Take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of reprisal and monitor the workplace for any signs of detrimental action towards the discloser.

Employee (Public Officer):

5.20 Immediately report a matter to a proper authority, if they honestly believe that some wrongdoing has occurred.

5.21 Be prepared to assist in an investigation of the PID if requested by the investigator to provide information.

5.22 Understand that making a vexatious report may result in disciplinary action being taken.

5.23 Advise the Witness Support Officer if they believe that reprisal action is being taken or is likely to be taken against a discloser.

6. Definitions

Corrupt Conduct:

Under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 conduct assessed against all four of the following criteria:

  1. Effect of the conduct - conduct of a person, regardless of whether the person holds or held an appointment, that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the performance of functions or the exercise of powers; and
  2. Result of conduct - conduct results, or could result, directly or indirectly, in the performance of functions or the exercise of powers mentioned above in a way that:
    1. Is not honest or is not impartial; or
    2. Involves a breach of trust placed in a person holding an appointment, either knowingly or recklessly; or
    3. Involves a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of functions or the exercise of powers of a person holding an appointment; and
  3. Benefit or detriment arising from the conduct - conduct is engaged in for the purpose of providing a benefit to the person or another person or causing a detriment to another; and
  4. Criminal offence or disciplinary breach - conduct would, if proved, be a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminate the person's services, if the person is or were a holder of an appointment.

Maladministration:

An action that was:

  • Taken contrary to law;
  • Unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory';
  • In accordance with a rule of law or a provision of an Act or a practice that is or may be unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory in the particular circumstances';
  • Taken for an improper purpose; on irrelevant grounds or having regard to irrelevant considerations';
  • An action for which reasons should have been given, but were not given';
  • Based wholly or partly on a mistake of law or fact; or
  • Wrong.

Proper Authority:

A public sector entity (as defined in section 6 of the PID Act) through a chief executive, a member of a HR unit, a General Manager or other person in a management position within TAFE Queensland; an entity with authority to investigate or remedy (e.g. CCC or Queensland Ombudsman); or a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Public Interest Disclosure (PID):

A report of a suspected wrongdoing or danger. For a report to be considered a PID and attract the protections outlined in the Act, it must be an appropriate disclosure about public interest information. A disclosure of information can be made by any person whether an employee or a member of the public. The disclosure must be made to a proper authority.

Reprisal:

Causing, attempting or conspiring to cause detriment to another person because or in the belief that:

  • The other person or someone else has made or intends to make a PID; or
  • The other person or someone else is, has been or intends to be involved in a proceeding under the Act against any person.

Witness Support Officer:

A member of the HR team designated by the CHRO to act as a liaison with witnesses.

7. Legislative and Policy Basis