Public Interest Disclosures Act - Guidelines and Standards

The Ombudsman is required to publish a number of guidelines and standards under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002. These guidelines assist with the interpretation and application of the Act.

The guideline for public bodies’ procedures has recently been amended. All large public bodies will need to resubmit their procedures by 26 February 2021 to comply with the amended guideline.

Serious or significant improper conduct

One of the purposes of the Act  is to encourage and facilitate disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies.

Improper conduct has a specific meaning under the Act. Section 3 of the Act states that improper conduct means –

(a) conduct that constitutes an illegal or unlawful activity; or

(b) corrupt conduct (a definition of corrupt conduct is also found in s 3); or

(c) conduct that constitutes maladministration; or

(d) conduct that constitutes professional misconduct; or

(e) conduct that constitutes a waste of public resources; or

(f) conduct that constitutes a danger to public health or safety or to both public health and safety; or

(g) conduct that constitutes a danger to the environment; or      

(h) misconduct, including breaches of applicable codes of conduct; or

(i) conduct that constitutes detrimental action against a person who makes a public interest disclosure under this Act –

that is serious or significant as determined in accordance with guidelines issued by the Ombudsman; [emphasis added]

Guideline One - Serious or Significant Improper Conduct (PDF, 653.0 KB)

Procedures to be followed by Public Bodies

Public bodies are required to establish procedures under the Act for dealing with disclosures about improper conduct. These procedures must comply with the Ombudsman’s guidelines and standards and the Ombudsman is required to review and approve large public bodies’ procedures every three years.

The amended Guideline Two - Procedures for Public Bodies (PDF, 2.3 MB) is available on our website.

The Ombudsman’s model procedures for public bodies is Attachment A of the guideline. A Microsoft Word version of the model procedures (DOCX, 838.0 KB) is available for public bodies to edit to suit their requirements. The forms at Attachments 1 to 3 are also provided as locked forms (DOCX, 54.1 KB) for ease of use if that is preferred.

A flow chart (PDF, 1.8 MB) sets out the process under the Act for public bodies and is included in the model procedures.