The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002, which came into operation on 01 January 2004, applies to all State Services officers and employees, including those in the Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania.
The main objective of the Act is to encourage and facilitate disclosures of improper conduct or detrimental action by public officers and public bodies. The act provides protection from reprisals for persons making those disclosures and establishes a system for the matters disclosed to be properly investigated and for rectifying action to be taken.
A disclosure may be made about improper conduct by a public body or public official. (Please note that a disclosure may not be made about conduct that has occurred more than three years before the commencement of the Act). Improper conduct means conduct that is corrupt, a substantial mismanagement of public resources, or conduct involving substantial risk to public health or safety or to the environment. The conduct must be serious enough to constitute, if proved, a criminal offence or reasonable grounds for dismissal.
The Act also makes it an offence for a person to take any detrimental action against a person in reprisal for protected disclosure.
The Ombudsman has a central role in handling disclosures of improper conduct made under the Act, including the preparation and publication of guidelines to assist public bodies in interpreting and complying with the Act. The Department of Health and Human Services has adopted the model procedures for handling disclosures, developed by the Ombudsman.
The Department has allocated responsibility to two specific positions within the Human Resources Branch, to assist in managing the requirements of this Act.
The role of the Protected Disclosure Coordinator will be taken on by the Director, Human Resources and Workplace Safety who will:
- Receive all disclosures forwarded from the Protected Disclosure Officer;
- Impartially assess each disclosure to determine whether it is a public interest disclosure;
- Be responsible for carrying out, or appointing an investigator to carry out, an investigation of the public interest disclosure; and
- Appoint, on a case-by-case basis, a welfare manager who will be responsible for looking after the general welfare of the person making the disclosure.
The role of Protected Disclosure Officer will be undertaken by the Manager, Conduct and Review who will:
- Be a contact point for general advice about the operation of the Act for any person wishing to make a disclosure about improper conduct or detrimental action;
- Make arrangements for a disclosure to be made privately and discreetly and, if necessary, away from the workplace;
- Receive any disclosure made orally or in writing (from internal and external disclosers); and
- Commit to writing any disclosures made orally.
For further information or assistance in relation to the above please contact the Manager, Conduct and Review on (03) 6233 8480.
The Office of the Ombudsman can be contacted on (03) 6233 6217 (1800 001 170 outside the Hobart area) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.