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Public Interest Disclosure Scheme

 

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 aims to promote integrity and accountability in the Australian Public Sector by encouraging the disclosure of information about actual or suspected wrongdoing, protecting people who make disclosures and ensuring that disclosures are properly investigated and dealt with.  


The PID Act established the Public Interest Disclosure Scheme. Information on the Public Interest Disclosure Scheme can be accessed via the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

 

What can be disclosed under the PID Scheme?

 
A Public Interest Disclosure (PID) may be made about information that a discloser believes on reasonable grounds tends to show ‘disclosable conduct’ engaged in by:
 
  • a Commonwealth agency 
  • a public official , in connection with his or her position as a public official
  • a service provider that ANSTO has entered into a contract or relationship with
 
Disclosable conduct includes conduct which:
 
  • breaks a law 
  • is corrupt 
  • perverts the course of justice 
  • results in wastage of public funds 
  • is an abuse of public trust or position 
  • is maladministration, including conduct that is unjust, oppressive or negligent 
  • unreasonably endangers health and safety or endangers the environment 
  • is misconduct relating to scientific research, analysis or advice 
 

What protections are provided to a discloser under the PID Act?

 
The PID Act imposes duties on ANSTO in relation to the way it handles and investigates disclosures about disclosable conduct.  Public officials who make a PID are immune from civil, criminal and administrative liability (including disciplinary action) that might otherwise arise from making the disclosure.
 
They will also be entitled to certain levels of protection from having their identity disclosed without their consent and protection from threats of reprisal and actual reprisal. To gain these protections the discloser must comply with the requirements of the PID Act.  If a public official makes a disclosure to someone who is not authorised to receive it, the public official may not be protected by the PID Act.
 

Who can make a PID under the ANSTO PID Scheme?

 
Public officials, which include:
 
  • current and former ANSTO staff members
  • current and former ANSTO affiliates. Affiliates include a person associated with ANSTO but who is not a staff member. Examples are  contractors, consultants, secondees, visiting scientists, honorary / post retirement or volunteer fellows; or students or trainees
  • current and former staff of contracted and subcontracted service providers to ANSTO
- individuals who are contracted or subcontracted to provide goods or services to ANSTO when they are entering into or carrying out the contract or subcontract 
- officers and employees of companies that are contracted or subcontracted to provide goods or services to ANSTO when the officers and employees are entering into or carrying out the contract or subcontract. 
 

How can a PID be made?

 
It may be made in writing (addressed to an ANSTO Authorised Officer or by email to PIDdisclosures@ansto.gov.au or orally. In order to be covered by the legal provisions of the PID Act, a public interest disclosure can only be made to ANSTO’s authorised officers. These are:
 
Alternatively, for people currently working at ANSTO, disclosures may also be made to their Supervisor.  Your disclosure should contain as much information as possible to assist a decision to be made on an appropriate investigation. Ideally, this would include: 
 
  • your name and contact details 
  • the nature of the disclosable conduct 
  • who you think committed the disclosable conduct 
  • when and where the disclosable conduct occurred 
  • relevant events surrounding the issue 
  • if you did anything in response to the disclosable conduct 
  • others who know about the disclosable conduct and may have allowed it to continue 
  • names of any people who witnessed what happened or who may be able to verify what you are saying 
  • if you are concerned about possible reprisals as a result of making the disclosure 
  • information (such as supporting correspondence or other documents including file notes or a diary of events) you have to support the disclosure. 
 
Public Officials may remain anonymous, however this will reduce an investigator’s ability to investigate the matter, and the outcomes of the disclosure or investigation may not be able to be reported back to the discloser. If you advise that you wish to remain anonymous, the Authorised Officer will make all endeavours to keep your contact details and identifying information confidential.
 
You may also make an emergency disclosure if you reasonably believe there is a substantial and imminent danger to health, safety or the environment.
 
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s website provides further information on making a disclosure. 
 

How will a PID be managed?

 
All disclosures will be handled confidentially. Identifying information will only be used for the purposes of the PID Act (including the investigation) unless you consent to some additional use. 
 
Within 14 days after you make a disclosure, an ANSTO Authorised Officer will communicate to you whether the disclosure will remain with ANSTO for handling, or the reasons why your disclosure has not been allocated for further action. 
 
If your disclosure is allocated to ANSTO for action, an ANSTO Authorised Officer will advise you of estimated time for the investigation of the disclosed conduct. Investigations must be completed within 90 days unless the Ombudsman grants an extension. If the disclosed conduct will not be investigated, an ANSTO Authorised Officer will provide reasons and suggest other courses of action that might be available. 
 
The investigation, if any, will be conducted in accordance with the PID Act. You may be contacted if more information is required, and you will be provided with a copy of the investigation report.  The investigation report may be reviewed and redacted by ANSTO prior to its release to you to address confidentiality and privacy requirements.
 

What if I am not satisfied with the handling of my disclosure?

 
If you are not satisfied with the handling of your disclosure, you may complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about a decision not to allocate or investigate your disclosure or about the way that your disclosure has been handled or investigated. If your concern satisfies specific conditions, you may also make an external public interest disclosure. To make an external public interest disclosure (other than an emergency disclosure), you must first make an internal disclosure (eg through the ANSTO PID Scheme). In addition, it must not be contrary to the public interest to make an external public interest disclosure. In addition, the investigation must have exceeded the time limit, or you reasonably believe that the investigation or its outcome was inadequate. 
 
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s website provides further information on making an external or emergency disclosure.   
 

Allocations from other Commonwealth agencies

 
Other Commonwealth agencies who propose to allocate a public interest disclosure to ANSTO should first contact an ANSTO Authorised Internal Recipient at PIDdisclosures@ansto.gov.au.
 

More information

 
For more information about the PID Act see Speaking Up About Wrongdoing: A guide to making a disclosure under the PID Act, published by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Further information, including information sheets and guides, can also be obtained from the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s website.