Blowing the whistle in Tasmania
disclosure The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002 (the Act) gives protections to people blowing the whistle about serious or significant improper conduct in the Tasmanian public sector.
This is called making a disclosure under the Act.
The purpose of the Act is to encourage reporting of wrongdoing so it can be investigated. This will ensure the wrongdoing is dealt with and steps are taken so it does not happen again.
Who can blow the whistle?
Public officers – someone who works for a Tasmanian public body such as state owned corporations like Taswater or state government departments.
Contractors, employees of contractors and sub-contractors– someone who is paid for providing goods and services to Tasmanian public bodies like local councils or State government departments.
Members of the public can make disclosures if it is in the public interest. The Ombudsman or the Integrity Commission makes this assessment.
A disclosure can be made anonymously if you prefer.
What can you blow the whistle about?
You can blow the whistle if you see a public body or another Tasmanian public officer doing something seriously or significantly wrong.
The Act calls this ‘improper conduct’ which covers a number of different things including:
- illegal activity;
- corrupt conduct;
- endangering public health, safety or the environment;
- misusing or wasting government funds;
- maladministration; and
- breaches of professional codes of conduct.
What if something happens to you after blowing the whistle?
The Act makes it illegal for you to be targeted because you blew the whistle. This is called ‘detrimental action’.
You can make a disclosure about detrimental action, for example, if you are sacked, disciplined or harassed for blowing the whistle.
How do you blow the whistle about improper conduct?
You need to make sure your disclosure is to the right person or body.
If it is about another public officer you can report it to the principal officer at your workplace, such as the General Manager at a council or the Secretary in a department.
You can also talk to your public body’s Public Interest Disclosure Officer.
You can find out who that is by looking up your Public Interest Disclosure Procedures. These should be publicly available and are generally on your public body’s website.
If you want to report the public body you work for, another public body, or a public officer, you can contact the Ombudsman or the Integrity Commission.
Contractors can only blow the whistle about a public body so they will always need to contact the Ombudsman or the Integrity Commission.
There are specific rules about who to report to for certain positions, like Councillors and members of parliament, so consider contacting the Ombudsman initially if you have any questions.
What happens after you have blown the whistle?
The public body or the Ombudsman need to make an assessment about whether your disclosure is protected and if it is a public interest disclosure. If a public body decides it is not a public interest disclosure, it has to refer its decision to the Ombudsman for review. If it is a public interest disclosure it generally has to be investigated.
If the investigation finds that the improper conduct occurred the public body:
- must take all reasonable steps to prevent the conduct from continuing or occurring in the future; and
- may take action to remedy any harm or loss arising from the conduct.
The Ombudsman and the discloser must be notified of the findings of the investigation. If it is found that the improper conduct occurred, they must be told what action has been taken in response.