Director, Office of the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar
Date of Next Review
8.3.3 Roles and responsibilities
8.3.4 Making a disclosure
8.3.5 Assessment of disclosure
8.3.6 Responding to a public interest disclosure
8.3.7 Protection of discloser
8.3.8 Providing information on actions and outcomes
8.3.9 Disclosure relating to the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar
8.3.10 Recordkeeping and confidentiality
8.3.11 Reprisal action and breaches of policy
8.3.12 Public Interest Disclosure (PID) oversight agency
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) provides for the protection of University staff and other public officers and, where applicable, other persons making public interest disclosures about suspected unlawful, negligent or improper conduct at QUT, or about danger to public health or safety or the environment.
QUT encourages the reporting of wrongdoing. The University is committed to ensuring that public interest disclosures are appropriately managed to address wrongdoing, and that those who make disclosures are supported and protected from reprisals. The University will receive and manage public interest disclosures in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act and applicable standards issued by the Queensland Ombudsman.
Where a disclosure is protected under Commonwealth whistleblower protection laws (Corporations Act 2001 and/or the Taxation Administration Act 1953) QUT intends to apply a common sense approach and will assess and manage the disclosure in line with the principals set out in this policy and in accordance with the requirements of the whistleblower protection laws.
This policy applies to a public interest disclosure (PID) as defined in the Public Interest Disclosure Act. All University staff are considered public officers for the purposes of this policy, whether appointed on an ongoing, fixed term, sessional or casual basis.
A public officer (including but not limited to a QUT staff member) may make a public interest disclosure about:
- corrupt conduct as defined by the Crime and Corruption Act 2001
- maladministration that adversely affects anyone’s interests in a substantial and specific way
- negligent or improper management by a public officer, public sector entity or a government contractor resulting or likely to result in a substantial misuse of public resources
- conduct by another person causing a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety or to the environment.
Any person (including a public officer) may make a public interest disclosure about:
- a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability
- a substantial and specific danger to the environment
- causing, attempting to cause, or conspiring to cause detriment to another person because, or in the belief that, a person has made, or may make, a public interest disclosure.
For a disclosure to be a public interest disclosure (PID) it must relate to a matter of "public interest" as defined above and must therefore be based on matters which are more significant and substantial than mere disagreements about policy, expenditure priorities or similar matters. Staff grievances related to harassment, bullying, management conduct or similar will not generally fall within the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
The Act sets out the circumstances in which a disclosure about these matters will be protected as a public interest disclosure (PID), including the requirement to make a disclosure in the manner set out in the Act (that is, to a proper authority as set out in B/8.3.4 or in accordance with procedures specified by the University).In order for a disclosure to be treated as a public interest disclosure (PID), the discloser must have an honest belief on reasonable grounds that the information disclosed tends to show the conduct or danger noted above (subjective test). Alternatively, the information tends to show the conduct or danger, regardless of whether the person honestly believes it (objective test).
Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar (PID coordinator)
PID case manager (PID support officer)
When making a disclosure, a person is expected to provide all relevant information currently in their possession in a timely way. A discloser must not provide intentionally false or misleading information. A person who does so may be subject to disciplinary action and this may also constitute a criminal offence.
To ensure that a disclosure is managed promptly and appropriately and with due regard to confidentiality, natural justice and other considerations, a disclosure by a QUT staff member or other QUT officer should be in writing and made to the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar (except as set out in B/8.3.9 below).
Other ways of making a protected disclosure
To receive protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, a disclosure must be made to a ‘proper authority’, that is, to the University itself, other external entities with the authority to investigate the matter, or a Member of the Queensland Parliament.
Within the University, a disclosure can be made to a staff member’s supervisor (or a more senior line manager), the Vice-Chancellor and President, a member of Council, the Director, Assurance and Risk Management Services, and where the disclosure relates to reprisal action in regard to the employment of the discloser, to the Executive Director, Human Resources.
If a staff member makes a disclosure to another staff member or QUT officer (including a Council member), the disclosure should be referred immediately to the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar for management under this policy (except as set out in B/8.3.9 below).
The Public Interest Disclosure Act protects certain disclosures made to some external Queensland government agencies. QUT will fully cooperate with an external agency that is authorised by the Public Interest Disclosure Act to investigate a disclosure.
Anonymous disclosures will be accepted. The University will endeavour to appropriately address the matters raised in an anonymous disclosure in line with its commitment to address wrongdoing; however, anonymous disclosures may limit the University’s capacity to fully investigate the issues, and the University may be unable to provide protections to the discloser and to inform the discloser about the outcome of any investigation.
Disclosures made orally
Where a disclosure is made orally, the discloser should be encouraged to commit the disclosure to writing. If the discloser is unwilling or unable to do so, the officer to whom it is made should make a record of the disclosure made, confirm the information with the discloser, and ensure that the disclosure is actioned as set out in this policy.
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar is responsible for assessing any disclosure to determine if:
- the disclosure concerns information or conduct about which a public interest disclosure (PID) can be made (as described in section 8.3.2); and
- the disclosure has been made as set out in the Act or in accordance with the procedure set out in B/8.3.4.
Where a disclosure is not determined to be a PID under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar is responsible for assessing any disclosure to determine if:
- the disclosure concerns information or conduct which is covered by Commonwealth whistleblower laws; and
- the disclosure has been made in accordance with the requirements of Commonwealth whistleblower laws to be determined as a protected disclosure.
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar must also assess whether there are any other legislative obligations in regard to the matter, for instance, referral to the Crime and Corruption Commission, Queensland Ombudsman, or a notification or referral to another external agency such as Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Any referral or notification required is undertaken by the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar.
If there is reasonable doubt about whether the disclosure may constitute a PID, the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar will assume the disclosure is protected and manage it as if it were a PID. If the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar determines that the disclosure does not relate to a matter of public interest as required by B/8.3.2, the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar may refer the matter to be dealt with under other University procedures. A person who is advised that their disclosure does not constitute a PID may apply to the Vice-Chancellor and President for a review of the decision within 28 days after receiving the written reasons.
QUT endeavours to act upon allegations of wrongdoing appropriately and in as timely a manner as the subject matter allows.
In determining appropriate action, the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar may consult with other University officers, though in a manner which protects confidentiality of the discloser and maintains the integrity of any relevant information or evidence. In addition to implementation of protections for the discloser (B/8.3.7), appropriate action may include:
- taking immediate measures to halt conduct or remedy the danger to which the disclosure relates
- implementing changes to policies, procedures or other internal processes or controls
- utilising existing University policies or procedures to address a concern or to undertake an investigation or enquiry into a matter (for example, research misconduct procedures under MOPP D/2.7)
- conducting an internal audit or review
- formally investigating the disclosure.
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar may appoint a public interest disclosure (PID) investigator who may be internal or external to the University. An investigator must be independent of the relevant area or function to which the disclosure relates and must be suitably qualified to undertake an investigation process. An investigation plan will address investigation processes to be adopted and the obligations to, rights of and impacts upon disclosers and respondents during the investigation.
Where an investigation is undertaken, an investigation report is provided to the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar, and may include recommendations for action. Recommended actions may include additional training or improvements to systems or processes.
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar may also determine that no action is required on a disclosure, for instance, where other processes are already in progress; where, due to the age or trivial nature of the matters disclosed, investigation is not warranted or possible; or where matters have already been investigated and determined.
A key element of the management of disclosures is the protection of the discloser from detriment or reprisal resulting from making the public interest disclosure (PID).
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar will ensure a protection plan is developed, following consultation with the discloser. The protection plan may involve:
- assessment of the support needs of a discloser who is an employee
- assessment of risks to the discloser and other persons associated with the disclosure, including potential consequences of any reprisal, taking account of input from the discloser
- identification and offer of protective measures proportionate and relevant to the risks of reprisal or detriment, including employee assistance and other support
- processes for monitoring protective measures and addressing issues if required
- development of measures to ensure confidentiality is maintained by all parties, including by the discloser
- appointment of a PID case manager (PID support officer) who is a QUT officer trained and appraised of their responsibilities and confidentiality obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
Consistent with the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the making of a disclosure by a staff member does not prevent supervisors and managers from taking reasonable management action to address unsatisfactory performance or improper conduct by the discloser or others, even where this relates to the matters disclosed.
A discloser will be provided with reasonable information about the outcome(s) of any investigation. This information must be given in writing.
Where a disclosure relates to conduct or actions of the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar personally, the disclosure should be made to the Vice-Chancellor and President or, if received by another staff member or officer of QUT, must be referred immediately to the Vice-Chancellor and President. In this circumstance, the Vice-Chancellor and President will undertake the role of public interest disclosure (PID) coordinator as set out in this policy.
Should a conflict of interest arise due to the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar’s prior involvement in a case, this will be managed consistent with the requirements of the Conflict of interest policy (B/8.7). If the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar steps aside due to a conflict issue, the Vice-Chancellor and President will undertake the role of PID coordinator.
The Vice-Chancellor and President may delegate the PID coordinator role to another senior officer in appropriate cases.
The Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar must keep a record of all disclosures made under this policy (even where the disclosure is determined not to be a public interest disclosure (PID) under the Public Interest Disclosure Act) and of the management steps taken. Records will be held in the corporate records system, with highly restricted access controls. PID disclosures are reported to the Queensland Ombudsman within 30 days of assessment as a PID.
In managing disclosures, the University will, to the greatest extent possible, keep the disclosure and the identity of the discloser confidential. This confidential information may be disclosed, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Act to a respondent but only if it is essential in order to afford natural justice to that person, and if it is unlikely that a reprisal may be taken against the discloser.
All parties involved in a public interest disclosure (PID), including the discloser, are obliged to maintain confidentiality both during and after the PID process. This protects the rights of both the discloser and respondents, and minimises risks relating to reprisals.
Where other procedures are used (B/8.3.6), this policy takes precedence in regard to management of communications to the discloser and to officers who are the subject of a complaint, in light of the confidentiality obligations of all parties.
It is a breach of this policy and of the Public Interest Disclosure Act for a staff member to take reprisal action.
Reprisal action is not tolerated or condoned by the University and disciplinary action may be taken against a staff member who engages in a reprisal. Taking reprisal action may also constitute a criminal offence.
In managing public interest disclosures, the University will take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of reprisal against a discloser (B/8.3.7) and other involved parties. All parties involved with public interest disclosure (PID) processes, including a discloser, must comply with the QUT Staff Code of Conduct (B/8.1). Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.
The Office of the Queensland Ombudsman is the oversight agency for the Public Interest Disclosure Act. The Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about the actions and decisions of public sector entities including universities. A discloser who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a public interest disclosure (PID) investigation by QUT may choose to approach the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman
Commonwealth whistleblower laws for the purposes of this policy refers to the whistleblower protections as set out in Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001 and Part IVD of the Taxation Administration Act 1953.
Discloser means a person who makes a public interest disclosure (PID) about a matter concerning QUT. The discloser may be an employee or other officer of QUT, or for certain types of disclosure as described in B/8.3.2, may be any person (student, members of the public).
PID is a public interest disclosure as that term is defined in the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
Public officer is a staff member, a member of QUT Council or another University committee.
Reprisal means causing, attempt to or conspiring to cause, detriment to another person because, or in the belief that, a disclosure has been or may be made. It includes conduct such as exclusion, harassment, interference with personal property, denial of professional opportunities or a promotion, and other conduct negatively impacting on a person, but does not include reasonable management action (such as performance management processes or disciplinary action related to the discloser or others).
Refer to Appendix 3 Schedule of Authorities and Delegations (VC003).
MOPP B/8.1 QUT Staff Code of Conduct
MOPP B/8.6 Corruption and fraud control
MOPP B/8.7 Conflict of interest
QUT Risk Management Framework (QUT staff access only)
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 1 issued by the Queensland Ombudsman
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 2 issued by the Queensland Ombudsman
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 3 issued by the Queensland Ombudsman
Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)
|27.02.20||All||Council||Revised policy to address Commonwealth whistleblower laws|
|11.10.17||All||Council||Revised and simplified policy|
|19.05.15||All||Registrar||Periodic review - minor editorial changes only|
|01.07.14||B/8.3.2, B/8.3.3, B/8.3.5, B/8.3.10||Governance and Legal Services||Policy revised following the Crime and Misconduct and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014|
|24.08.11||All||Council||Policy revised and renamed due to change in legislation|
|16.09.08||All||Registrar||Updated policy consistent with legislative amendments to Whistleblowers Protection Act 1994|
|02.07.03||All||Vice-Chancellor||Revised policy to enhance consistency with the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1994 (endorsed by Vice-Chancellors Advisory Committee 27.03.03)|