Public interest disclosures
The department is committed to ensuring an ethical, transparent culture and support public interest disclosures.
The department will support employees, or others who make disclosures about matters in the public interest. The Making and managing a public interest disclosure policy and procedure demonstrates our commitment, and ensures practical and effective strategies are implemented in compliance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act) and Standards.
When a discloser comes forward with information about wrongdoing, we commit to:
- protect the dignity, wellbeing, career interests and good name of all persons involved
- protect the discloser from adverse treatment taken as a result of making the disclosure
- respond to the disclosure thoroughly and impartially
- take appropriate action to deal with any wrongdoing or danger (if substantiated)
- keep the discloser informed of the progress and outcome.
A public interest disclosure
A public interest disclosure is a disclosure about wrongdoing in the public sector that serves the public interest. For an allegation to be considered a public interest disclosure under the PID Act, it must be:
- public interest information about serious wrongdoing or danger
- an appropriate disclosure
- made to a proper authority
Making a public interest disclosure
Any person can make a disclosure about a:
- substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability
- substantial and specific danger to the environment caused by commission of an offence or contravention of a condition in certain environmental legislation
- reprisal that occurs after the making of a public interest disclosure.
In addition, employees, who are public sector officers can make a disclosure about the following public interest matters:
- corrupt conduct
- maladministration that adversely affects a person's interests in a substantial and specific way
- a substantial misuse of public resources
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
- a substantial and specific danger to the environment.
Whilst written information is preferred, a disclosure can be made:
- anonymously, although it can be difficult to seek clarification or more information, to inform the discloser of progress, or to advise about action taken or to be taken to deal with the disclosure.
To enable further investigation, all disclosures should:
- be clear and factual
- avoid speculation, emotive language, embellishment
- avoid the provision of only vague details.
Section 12 and 13 of the PID Act provide more information about what public interest information is, when making a public interest disclosure. If a disclosure is not a public interest disclosure, it may still be in an important complaint.
An appropriate disclosure
An appropriate disclosure is where:
- the discloser has an honest and reasonable belief that the information provided tends to show the conduct or danger
- the information tends to show the conduct or danger regardless of the discloser’s belief.
Information that ‘tends to show’ wrongdoing or danger must be more than a mere suspicion or bald allegations. Sufficient information should be provided, so that the department understands what happened. This information might include:
- What happened?
- Where did the events take place?
- When (time and date) did the events take place? If there are multiple events, providing a timeline outlining how they are connected can be helpful.
- Who was involved?
- Why what happened is wrong - i.e. what laws/policies/procedures haven’t been followed?
- Were there any witnesses to these events? What are their details?
- Any supporting information/documents that might be relevant to help understand the disclosure
- Any previous action taken to resolve the disclosure.
The discloser is not encouraged to undertake investigative action before making a disclosure and does not need to provide evidence.
Information may still be a disclosure under the PID Act even if the information turns out to be incorrect or unable to be substantiated, provided the discloser had a genuine and reasonable belief it occurred. This allows for genuine misinterpretations of information to fall within the scope of the PID Act.
A proper authority
Proper authorities are persons and organisations authorised under the PID Act to receive public interest disclosures.
If the disclosure is about alleged wrongdoing by the department, its conduct or that of its employees, then it is the proper authority.
Other proper authorities may include:
- Crime and Corruption Commission for disclosures about corrupt conduct.
- Chief Judicial Officer of a court or tribunal when the report is about suspected corrupt conduct or reprisal by a judicial officer.
- Any Member of the Queensland Parliament (an MP).
Disclosers are entitled to reasonable information about the action taken as a result of making a disclosure. This includes information about the action proposed and, if action is taken, the results of that action.
Reprisal against a discloser is an offence. The PID Act also makes the department vicariously liable if any of the entity’s employees attempt or cause reprisal against a discloser (whether the discloser is a public officer or a member of the public). The department’s chief executive officers have specific obligations to ensure public officers who make a disclosure are supported and offered protection from reprisal.
If you are a public sector officer, you cannot be disciplined for the action of making a public interest disclosure. However, a discloser’s liability for their own conduct is not affected by the action of making a disclosure. Making a disclosure does not prevent reasonable management action.
The PID Act also provides that appropriate consideration be given to the interests of the person subject to a public interest disclosure. Sometimes a disclosure is the result of an honest but mistaken claim, and it is important that all public sector officers are treated fairly.
Public interest disclosure confidentiality
Under the PID Act, identifying information about a person making a disclosure, the person/s alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing and details of the disclosure are all confidential. It is an offence to reveal confidential information except in certain circumstances, such as:
- if required under the PID Act
- if required under another Act
- for a proceeding in a court or tribunal
- to protect the health or safety of a person
- if the person to whom the confidential information relates agrees in writing
- if it is essential under the principles of natural justice and reprisal is unlikely.
The best protection is confidentiality. Potential disclosers should:
- Exercise discretion in who they talk to, and how.
- Be careful in deciding who you report to and how. To be protected under the PID Act your report must be made to specific people (refer PID procedure).
- Keep records of relevant conversations and written communications received and sent that are related to their report.
- Not make their intention to report known in the workplace. For example, threatening to report may backfire. If information is provided discreetly, agencies will be better able to focus on the issues rather than on the discloser.
- Seek advice from the Queensland Ombudsman or from Integrity Services in the department.
Making a disclosure
The Director-General, DTIS
Mail: PO Box 15168
City East, Brisbane 4002
Employees of the department can also make a public interest disclosure to their manager or supervisor.
External to the department
- the Crime and Corruption Commission if it concerns corrupt conduct
- the Queensland Ombudsman if it concerns maladministration
- a member of the Legislative Assembly.
Last updated: 04 Nov 2022