Public interest disclosure
The City of Fremantle does not tolerate corrupt or other improper conduct, including mismanagement of public resources, in the exercise of the public functions of the City of Fremantle, its officers, employees and contractors. The City will take all reasonable steps to provide protection to anyone who makes such disclosures from any detrimental action in reprisal for the making of a public interest disclosure. The guidelines provide for the manner in which the City will comply with its obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003.
What is a public interest disclosure (PID)?
A public interest disclosure (PID) occurs when a person provides information to a proper authority about a matter that is of public interest. This information must be about some past, present or proposed improper behaviour by a public body (public authority, public officer or public sector contractor) while carrying out a public function. A disclosure must relate to a matter of public interest and show wrongdoing by a public body when performing a public function.
What is a public body?
Public bodies include:
- A public authority (includes a State Government organisation, local government, regional local government, or a public university)
- A public officer (includes a State public service officer, an employee of a public authority, a minister, a member of Parliament, a judicial officer, a police officer, a holder of office under the State, or an officer of the Commonwealth exercising a function on behalf of the State)
- A public sector contractor (a person or organisation engaged by a public authority, or a subcontractor of this person, for the supply of goods and services or the performance of a public function)
What should be disclosed (reported) under this Act?
A disclosure must show the public body's involvement in one or more of the following:
- Improper conduct (generally a breach of the standards of conduct that a reasonable person could expect of a person or body, knowing their duties, powers and authority, in the circumstances of the case);
- An offence under State Law (including corruption);
- Conduct relating to matters of State or local government administration;
- Substantial Irregular or unauthorised use of public resources;
- Substantial mismanagement of public resources; and/or
- Substantial and specific risk of injury to public health, prejudice to public safety or harm to the environment; and/or
- matters of state or local government administration that can be investigated under section 14 of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1971.
NOTE: The Act does not apply to information that someone has, or is, engaging in criminal behaviour that is unconnected with their employment.
What is the difference between a PID and a grievance?
A public authority can receive many different types of complaints. These can range from workplace disputes, harassment, bullying or occupational health concerns through to allegation of improper conduct or corruption. Not all of these disclosures will be a PID to which the Act will apply.
The following table shows the difference between a PID and a grievance. Grievances can be reported internally to your Manager or Manager People and Culture or if external, to email@example.com.
Public Interest Disclosure
Aims to resolve a grievance or dispute.
Does not aim to resolve a grievance or dispute.
Aims to deal with the grievance as close to the source as possible,
i.e. to resolve the differences directly between the parties concerned.
This is not the aim of a PID.
Usually between an employee and management, or between two parties.
More than a dispute between two parties – relates to a matter of public interest.
A grievance can, generally, be withdrawn at any stage.
The person making the disclosure cannot withdraw it.
A grievance can, generally, be resolved by agreement between the parties.
The aim is not to resolve the issue between two or more parties.
Who can make a disclosure?
Under the Act, any person can make a disclosure if they believe something is wrong with the way a public body is acting or going to act. Anyone (including employees of public bodies or members of the public) who believes, on reasonable grounds, that the information that they have is true can make a disclosure. It must always be in the public interest to report it.
Before you make a disclosure, you should consider whether the subject matter could be dealt with through other channels, like a grievance procedure or by reporting it to management or other authorities.
How to make a PID
Before making a disclosure, you should contact the Public Interest Disclosure Officer in the relevant authority to find out more about:
- How to make the disclosure and who you should disclose to
- Your rights and responsibilities
- The protections that will apply
- Whether the information you have is covered by the Act
If your information is not covered by the Act you can still make your disclosure to the public authority concerned using its grievance process (if you are or were an employee at the time the incident occurred) or its complaints management process (if you are a member of the public). Once you have been informed about the Act and your rights and responsibilities, you must make it clear that you have chosen to make your disclosure under the Act. Generally, the PID Officer will have a PID lodgement form for you to sign.
If you choose to make your disclosure under the Act you must ensure you do not discuss the matter with anyone other than the PID Officer or the person conducting the investigation. You may lose your immunity under the Act and breach the confidentiality provisions which may incur a penalty if you do.
A disclosure is more than a general complaint about dissatisfaction with a product or service or a decision by government, and it is more than a personal grievance that can be resolved by agreement between parties. In order to be covered by the Act, the information needs to relate to a matter of public interest.
NOTE: It is a serious offence to make a disclosure that is false, trivial, vexatious, misleading or tied to any personal agenda. If you know the information in the disclosure is false or misleading, or you are reckless about the information, it will be considered an offence and could attract a penalty of $12,000 or one year of imprisonment.
To make a disclosure you must:
- Believe on reasonable grounds that the information is or may be true;
- Not knowingly provide false or misleading information; and
- Make the disclosure voluntarily and consciously.
The PID Officer will keep the identify of the discloser confidential, subject to several exceptions including the discloser consenting to their identity being released (see section 16 of the Act).
Please contact the City’s PID Officer:
Glen Dougall, Chief Executive Officer – 08 9432 9600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information for disclosures (wa.gov.au)
Public Interest Disclosure Lodgement Form
Consent to disclosure of identifying information form
City of Fremantle - Feedback and complaints – employees and elected members
Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003