Governance

Public Interest Disclosures

What is a Public Interest Disclosure?

A public interest disclosure is a complaint or allegation made about improper conduct (e.g. corrupt conduct) or detrimental action in the public sector.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012 (PID Act) aims to ensure openness and accountability by encouraging people to make disclosures without fear of reprisal, and protecting them when they do.

Who can make a disclosure?

Any individual or group of individuals can make a disclosure.

A disclosure cannot be made by a business or company - but its officers or employees can.

How do I make a disclosure?

The Act only allows certain entities to receive disclosures.

If your disclosure is made to an entity that is unable to receive disclosures, it may not attract the protection of the Act. Therefore, it is important to determine if you are making your disclosure to the correct public entity.

If in doubt, disclosures should be made to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), unless the disclosure is about IBAC or one of its officers, in which case it should be made to the Victorian Inspectorate (responsible for monitoring Victoria’s integrity agencies).

Any individual or group of individuals can make a disclosure of improper conduct (or suspected improper conduct) about MTIA or its staff, or about the improper conduct of a member of the public or an MTIA third party provider in relation to the MTIA’s operation.

Disclosures can be made in person, by phone or by leaving a voicemail message, by email or post and anonymously, if preferred.

Disclosures of improper conduct by MTIA or its staff or conduct by a third party adversely impacting MTIA or its staff, should be made to the MTIA Public Interest Disclosure Coordinators:

Disclosures may also be made directly to:

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)
Level 1, North Tower
459 Collins Street
Melbourne 3000
Ph: 1300 735 135

Victorian Ombudsman
Level 2
570 Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000
Ph: (03) 9613 6222 (local)
Ph: 1800 806 314 (regional only)

Improper conduct

Improper conduct under the Act includes corrupt conduct, criminal offences and other conduct as follows:

  • serious professional misconduct
  • dishonest performance of public function
  • intentional or reckless breach of public trust
  • intentional or reckless misuse of information
  • substantial mismanagement of public resources
  • substantial risk to the health or safety of one or more persons
  • substantial risk to the environment
  • conduct of any person that adversely effects the honest performance by a public officer of their functions (e.g. bribing a public officer)
  • conduct of any person that is intended to adversely affect the effective performance by a public officer of their functions for the benefit of the other person.

Corrupt conduct

Corrupt conduct includes:

  • taking or offering bribes
  • dishonestly using influence
  • committing fraud, theft or embezzlement
  • misusing information or material acquired at work
  • conspiring or attempting to engage in the above corrupt activity.

Corruption

Corruption can occur through:

  • improper or unlawful actions by public sector staff or agency
  • failure of public sector staff or agencies to act
  • actions of private individuals who try to improperly influence public sector functions or decisions.

Detrimental action

Detrimental action is essentially reprisal action taken or threatened against persons involved in a disclosure.

Under reforms to the Act, effective from 1 January 2020, detrimental action is any action seen as taken against an individual following their disclosure or as a consequence of them making the disclosure or co-operating with a disclosure investigation.

What protections do I have if I make a Public Interest Disclosure?

A person who makes a disclosure that is deemed by IBAC to be a Public Interest Complaint (PIC) is assured confidentiality and protection from reprisal or detrimental action.

Legal Protections

  • IBAC will never publicise your name
  • You and your family, friends and colleagues will be protected from being fired or bullied for making a complaint
  • You will receive protection from defamation and detrimental action in reprisal for making a public interest disclosure
    you will receive immunity from:
    • civil or criminal liability or any liability arising by way of administrative process (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure
    • committing an offence under the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic) or any other Act that imposes obligations of confidentiality or otherwise restricts the disclosure of information
    • breaching any other obligation (made by oath or rule of law or practice) requiring the maintenance of confidentiality or otherwise restricting the disclosure of information.

Confidentiality

There are confidentiality obligations for those receiving information relating to a public interest disclosure to not disclose that information, unless authorised by law.

MTIA and IBAC will take all reasonable steps to ensure the contents of your disclosure and your identity is kept confidential. It is also in your best interests to keep your disclosure confidential to protect yourself. Only discuss it and related matters with the investigating body.

The Act also provide disclosers the avenue to discuss the matter with other support persons such as your spouse or partner, employee assistance counsellor, health professional, legal advisor, trade union or WorkCover (if you need to make a compensation claim). This is available even where a confidentiality notice issued by IBAC, the Victorian Ombudsman or Victorian Inspectorate is in place, unless an investigating body directs otherwise.

External disclosures

Reforms made to the Act allow a discloser to make a further disclosure of substantially the same subject matter to external parties (i.e. those not authorised to receive public interest disclosures such as journalists or politicians), and still retain protections under the Act, so long as there has been a specified period of inaction and under certain conditions.

Welfare and protection of disclosers

MTIA recognises that the welfare of disclosers, and the provision of protection against reprisals for them, are essential to enable individuals to come forward.

How is a Public Interest Disclosure handled?

If you submit your disclosure to MTIA, it will be sent to the MTIA Public Interest Disclosure Coordinators to be assessed against IBAC guidelines. If your disclosure meets the criteria, it will be referred to IBAC for assessment to determine if it is a PIC.

IBAC must dismiss, investigate or refer the disclosure to another body to investigate (e.g. the Victorian Ombudsman) or refer it back to the MTIA to investigate with your consent.

IBAC may also determine that the complaint does not meet the criteria of a PIC and refer it back to the MTIA Public Interest Disclosure Coordinators to be investigated.

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