In 2012 Victoria introduced legislation to consolidate and extend protection of people making protected disclosure complaints about public sector corruption or police misconduct. The system has evolved through a number of changes since then including recent changes, passed in February 2019, that come into effect on 1 January 2020 with the commencement of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012.
As the lead agency responsible for managing protected disclosure complaints, IBAC is working with other integrity agencies and public sector departments and agencies to help them prepare for these important changes to improving Victoria's integrity system. These changes affect how improper conduct and corruption in the Victorian public sector can be reported, and the protections available to those who report. They aim to better accommodate and encourage disclosures about wrongdoing in public office. Public sector agencies need to update their policies and procedures in response to these changes.
Under the new legislation, the terms 'protected disclosure' and 'protected disclosure complaint' have been replaced with the following terms:
- Public Interest Disclosure (PID) – disclosure by a person of information that shows or that the person reasonably believes shows improper conduct or detrimental action.
- Public Interest Complaint (PIC) – a public interest disclosure that has been determined by IBAC, Victorian Inspectorate or IOC to be a Public Interest Complaint.
IBAC CEO Alistair Maclean said the changes make it easier for 'whistleblowers' to make a disclosure.
'It's important public sector bodies have adequate policies, procedures and systems for staff to make a disclosure, and for receiving, assessing and safely handling disclosures.'
Mr Maclean said the new legislation works to improve access for those making public interest disclosures (PIDs) and flexibility for agencies investigating PIDs.
'The legislation allows a broader range of disclosures to be made, with more independent expert bodies able to investigate disclosures. It also introduces a flexible 'no wrong door' approach to ensure disclosures aren't excluded if they are inadvertently sent to the wrong body.'
The new legislation also provides:
- a lower threshold for making PIDs to IBAC contained in a revised definition of 'improper conduct'
- increased flexibility and alternative pathways for how investigating agencies handle PIDs (and public interest complaints)
- modified confidentiality arrangements, including changes to IBAC's confidentiality notice procedures and practices.
Getting ready for the changes
Mr Maclean said IBAC is supporting agencies to prepare for the new requirements. IBAC is undertaking a range of engagement and communications activities, including providing updated guidance, seminars, and publishing new material.
This month, IBAC held a workshop on key changes to the receiving and handling of public interest disclosures. Throughout October, IBAC will hold a number of information session detailing changes and what public sector bodies need to do to prepare for 1 January 2020. One session will be specifically tailored to the local government sector. An information pack will be sent to all public sector agencies in late September to complement the workshops.
'I encourage representatives of public sector agencies to attend one of the information sessions, or contact IBAC if they need help preparing for the changes.'
Mr Maclean said IBAC's research found that Victorians feared victimisation if they reported suspected corruption.
'This finding shows more needs to be done to ensure that people know protections are available if they report suspected public sector corruption and police misconduct.'
'Public sector agencies can build a willingness to report wrongdoing through positive, affirming messaging to staff and all portfolio agencies, valuing those who come forward. This will lead to prospective disclosers feeling safe and being confident they will be supported and protected from reprisal if they come forward.'
To register to attend one of these session or for further information about the changes, please check our events listing or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register for updates on information sessions and guidance.