Public Interest Disclosures
Latrobe City Council is required to establish and publish procedures under s 58 of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 (the Act) and in accordance with the Guidelines of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) published under s 57 of the Act. The Council is required to ensure these procedures are readily available to members of the public as well as internally to all Councillors, employees, and staff of the Council.
Latrobe City Council is committed to the aims and objectives of the Act in that it does not tolerate improper conduct by the organisation, its employees, officers, members, or Councillors, or the taking of reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct. The making of public interest disclosures is valued by the organisation and the right of any individual to make a public interest disclosure is taken seriously.
Latrobe City Council recognises the value of transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices. The Council supports the making of public interest disclosures that reveal corrupt conduct, conduct involving a substantial mismanagement of public resources, or conduct involving a substantial risk to public health and safety or the environment. The Council is committed to the elimination of all forms of fraud and to creating an ethical environment and culture that discourages and prevents fraud.
Receiving and assessing disclosures
Where the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator has received a disclosure, s/he will assess whether the disclosure has been made in accordance with Part 2 of the Act and is, therefore, a public interest disclosure.
To be a public interest disclosure, a disclosure must satisfy the following criteria:
- Did a natural person (that is, an individual person rather than a corporation) make the disclosure?
- Does the disclosure relate to conduct of a public body or public officer acting in their official capacity?
- Is the alleged conduct either improper conduct or detrimental action taken or proposed to be taken against a person in reprisal for making a public interest disclosure?
- Does the person making a disclosure have reasonable grounds for believing the alleged conduct has occurred?
Where a disclosure is assessed not to be a public interest disclosure, the matter does not need to be dealt with under the Act. The Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator will decide how the matter should be responded to in line with existing Council policies and procedures, such as the staff’s Code of Conduct. The Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator will also notify the person who made the disclosure and advise that the disclosure:
- has been determined to not be a ‘public interest disclosure’;
- has not been referred to the IBAC; and
- where the person has either indicated to Council; or it otherwise appears to Council that the person wishes to receive the protections that apply to a public interest disclosure, then the protections available to persons making disclosures will still apply.
If the disclosure is determined to be a public interest disclosure then the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator will:
- refer the disclosure to the IBAC within 28 days of receiving the disclosure; and
- notify the person who made the disclosure that it has been referred to the IBAC.
Protecting Disclosers and the subject of disclosures
Maintaining confidentiality in relation to public interest disclosures matters is crucial, in particular to ensure reprisals are not made against a discloser. The following applies:
- Council will take all reasonable steps to protect the identity of the person making a public interest disclosure, maintaining confidentiality is crucial in ensuring reprisals are not made against the person making a public interest disclosure.
- All files pertaining to a reported incident, (whether paper or electronic), shall be secured and only be accessed by the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator/Officer, IBAC, appointed investigator or Welfare Officer (in relation to welfare matters).
- All printed material will be kept in files that are clearly marked as a “Public Interest Disclosures Act Matter” and warn of the criminal penalties that apply to any unauthorised divulging information concerning a public interest disclosure.
- Any electronic files will be saved to ensure security through password protection.
- All materials relevant to an investigation, such as tapes from interviews, will also be stored securely with the Public Interest Disclosures files.
- Persons who make public interest disclosures must not reveal to any other person who is not the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator/Officer, IBAC investigator or investigator appointed under these procedures, the Welfare Officer, or the CEO the content of the public interest disclosure unless the content of the public interest disclosure is in the public domain through no fault of the person making the public interest disclosure.