2 July 2013 V1.0 Rhonda Mayer, HR & Governance Manager May 2014 V2.0 Matthew Thornley, Governance & Corporate Information Manager June 2015 V3.0 Matthew Thornley, Governance & Corporate Information Manager May 2016 V4.0 Matthew Thornley, Governance & Corporate Information Manager August 2016 V4.1 Matthew Thornley, Governance & Corporate Information Manager Create policy D/13/3577 Updated to reflect change from GAA to MPA. Combined Policy and Procedures into a single document. Minor edits Reviewed and re-approved without changes Updated to reflect change from MPA to VPA Information about this document This document been published by the Growth Areas Authority (trading as the Victorian Planning Authority) in compliance with s 58 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2012 and the Guidelines published by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission as at July Requests for hard/further copies and further information about the Victorian Planning Authority s handling of complaints or disclosures may be obtained from/by contacting Ed Small or Peter Seamer. These Officers can be contacted by: mail, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 in person, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 by telephone on by fax on by , on Authorised by: Risk and Audit Committee Date of Authorisation: 11 May 2016 Effective Date: 11 May 2016 Date of Last Amendment: August 2016 Contact Person: Matthew Thornley
3 PROTECTED DISCLOSURE POLICY STATEMENT OF SUPPORT TO DISCLOSERS PURPOSE OBJECTS OF THE ACT DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS... 4 Improper conduct... 4 Detrimental action WHAT CAN DISCLOSURES BE MADE ABOUT? WHO CAN MAKE A DISCLOSURE?... 6 PROTECTED DISCLOSURE PROCEDURES ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES... 6 Employees... 6 Protected Disclosure Liaison Officers... 6 Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator... 7 Welfare Manager CONFIDENTIALITY... 8 General obligation of confidentiality on the VPA and all individuals... 8 Steps taken by the VPA to ensure confidentiality... 8 Limited exceptions permitted by the Act... 9 Penalties apply for breach of confidentiality TRAINING FOR ALL STAFF COLLATING & PUBLISHING ANNUAL REPORT INFORMATION WHO TO MAKE A DISCLOSURE TO Assessment by IBAC PREVENTING DETRIMENTAL ACTION Commitment to protecting disclosers Prohibition on taking detrimental action in reprisal for protected disclosures Reporting detrimental action Consequences for disclosers implicated in improper conduct, or disciplinary matters MANAGEMENT OF THE PERSON(S) AGAINST WHOM THE DISCLOSURE IS MADE REVIEW... 14
4 The Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) is a public body subject to the Protected Disclosures Act 2012 ( Act ). The purpose of the Act is to encourage and facilitate the making of disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies, including the VPA, its staff, members and employees. The VPA is committed to the aims and objectives of the Act. It does not tolerate improper conduct by the organisation, its employees, officers, members, nor the taking of reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct. The VPA recognises the value of transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices, and supports the making of disclosures that reveal improper conduct. The VPA will take all reasonable steps to protect people who make such disclosures from any detrimental action in reprisal for making the disclosure. It will also afford natural justice to the person or body who is the subject of the disclosure. This policy and procedures have been established under s 58 of the Act and in accordance with the IBAC Guidelines published under s 57 of the Act. The procedures set out an integrity system for protected disclosure welfare management and education and training by the VPA or its employees, officers or members. Any disclosures or detrimental action should be made to an authorised investigative entity. Disclosures may be made by any individual, including employees or members of the public. The processes contained in these procedures are designed to complement normal communication channels between supervisors and employees, the organisation and the community at large. Employees, officers and staff are encouraged to continue to raise appropriate matters at any time with their supervisors. Similarly, external individuals and members are likewise encouraged to raise matters of concern with the organisation at any time by contacting the VPA s Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer or the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator. The Act commenced operation on 10 February The purpose of the Act is to encourage and facilitate the making of disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies. Such disclosures may be made about any of the public officers or bodies as defined in s 3 of the Act and s 6 of the IBAC Act. They include: government departments; statutory authorities; municipal councils government-appointed boards and committees; government-owned companies;
5 universities and TAFEs; public hospitals; state-funded residential care services; employees, staff and members of public bodies such as the above; Councillors; Members of Parliament; Judicial officers; IBAC officers; police and protected service officers; teachers; and public servants. The Act provides protection to persons affected by protected disclosures, including the discloser, a witness or a person who is the subject of an investigation. It establishes a system for the matters disclosed to be considered, assessed by IBAC and further dealt with pursuant to IBAC s investigative and other powers and functions in accordance with the IBAC Act and the Act. The two key concepts in the integrity system are improper conduct and detrimental action. Definitions of these terms are set out below. A disclosure may be made about improper conduct by a public body or public official. Improper conduct means corrupt conduct or specified conduct. Corrupt conduct Corrupt conduct means any one of the following: conduct of any person that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer or public body of his or her or its functions as a public officer or public body; conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves the dishonest performance of his or her or its functions as a public officer or public body; conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves knowingly or recklessly breaching public trust; conduct of a public officer or a public body that involves the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of his or her or its functions as a public officer or public body, whether or not for the benefit of the public officer or public body or any other person; or conduct that could constitute a conspiracy or an attempt to engage in any of the conduct referred to above; and if that conduct could be proved beyond reasonable doubt at a trial, amounts to: an indictable offence; or one of the following 3 types of common law offences committed in Victoria: o perverting the course of justice o attempting to pervert the course of justice o bribery of an official.
6 Specified conduct Specified conduct is any one of the above types of conduct, or conduct that involves substantial mismanagement of public resources, risk to public health or safety, or risk to the environment, which would not constitute corrupt conduct but would nevertheless, if proved, constitute either: a criminal offence; or reasonable grounds for dismissing or terminating the employment of the officer who engaged or is engaging in that conduct. The term mismanagement is to be distinguished from misuse ; the former is about poor or incorrect management whereas the latter is about wrong or improper use. As an example, in IBAC s view, using a government car for personal gain is a misuse rather than mismanagement. In addition, the substantial risk to public health or safety requires a significant degree of risk and, in addition, risk which has the potential to affect a large class or group of the wider community (rather than just an individual or two). Under the Act, detrimental action may not be taken against a discloser in reprisal for a protected disclosure. In addition, detrimental action may not be taken against other persons in relation to a protected disclosure made under the Act. Detrimental action includes: action causing injury, loss or damage; intimidation or harassment; and discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to a person s employment, career, profession, trade or business, including the taking of disciplinary action. Examples of detrimental action prohibited by the Act include: the demotion, transfer, isolation or change in duties of a discloser due to him or her having made a disclosure; threatening, abusing or otherwise harassing (whether directly or indirectly) a discloser or the discloser s family or friends; discriminating against the discloser or the discloser s family and associates in subsequent applications for promotions, jobs, permits or tenders because the discloser made a disclosure under the Act. Further information about detrimental action is provided later in these procedures. Disclosures may be made about improper conduct on the part of a public body or its staff, employees and members. Disclosures may also be made about detrimental action taken (or suspected may be taken) in reprisal or in connection with a disclosure made about improper conduct. The conduct or action being disclosed may have taken place, still be occurring, or is believed will occur or be engaged in. For more information about the definition of terms, see the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission ( IBAC ) website
7 If the VPA believes a disclosure may be a protected disclosure made in accordance with the Act, it will refer the person to notify the disclosure to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission for assessment. The IBAC will then deal with the disclosure. Any individual natural person (e.g., not a group, organisation or company) may make a disclosure under the Act. The individual could be a person within the organisation, or any member of the public externally. Disclosures may be made in a number of ways set out in the Act, including anonymously, in writing or orally. An individual need not identify the person or body about whom the disclosure is made. Employees are encouraged to raise matters of concern internally in relation to the VPA, including about any person, staff, member, or employee of the VPA. In particular, employees are encouraged to report known or suspected incidences of improper conduct or detrimental action in accordance with these procedures, whether such conduct or action has taken place, is suspected to take place, or is still occurring. All employees of VPA have an important role to play in supporting those who have made a legitimate disclosure in accordance with the Act. All employees must refrain from any activity that is, or could be perceived to be, victimisation or harassment of a person who makes a disclosure. Furthermore, they should protect and maintain the confidentiality of a person they know or suspect to have made a disclosure. The VPA has appointed a Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer and a Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator to be a contact point for general advice about the operation of the Act for any person thinking about making a disclosure. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator is also involved in referring a person who wishes to make a disclosure or report detrimental action to the relevant authorised investigative authority, such as IBAC. For internal staff and employees, they provide a confidential avenue of advice where staff or employees wish to raise a concern about their line managers, colleagues or supervisors. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer or the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will: make arrangements for a discussion to be made privately and discreetly and, if necessary, away from the workplace; take all necessary steps to ensure that if information is disclosed to an authorised investigative authority, and the VPA becomes aware of this information including the identity of the discloser and any persons involved, that information is secure, remains private and confidential; refer anyone wanting to make a disclosure or report detrimental action to the relevant investigative authority, such as IBAC; and offer to remain a support person for the discloser in dealing with the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator.
8 The Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer appointed by the VPA is: Peter Seamer, Chief Executive Officer, and his contact details are: mail, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 in person, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 by telephone on by fax on by , on The VPA has also authorised the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator to act in the role of Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer. His details are: Edward Small, Director Corporate Services, and he can also be contacted through the details below. From time to time, it may be necessary to appoint other or additional Protected Disclosure Liaison Officers. The VPA will take all reasonable steps to publicise the contact details of those persons as widely as possible. The VPA s Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator has a central role in the integrity system and confidential recording system, and maintains oversight over these systems. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator is: contactable by external and internal persons making enquiries and has the authority to make enquiries of officers within the organisation; to receive all enquiries forwarded from VPA s Protected Disclosure Liaison Officers; the contact point for general advice about the operation of the Act and for integrity agencies such as IBAC; responsible for ensuring that VPA carries out its responsibilities under the Act or any regulations and any IBAC guidelines; the VPA s chief liaison with IBAC; to take all necessary steps to ensure that if any information received or obtained in connection with a disclosure, including the identities of the discloser and the person(s) to whom the disclosure relate, are kept secured, private and confidential at all times; responsible for arranging any necessary and appropriate welfare support for the discloser (if known), including appointing a Welfare Manager to support the discloser and to protect him or her from any reprisals; to provide an educative role and arrange appropriate training for staff; to establish and manage a confidential filing system; to collate any relevant statistics; and to liaise with the Chief Executive Officer and the Chair of the VPA. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator appointed by the VPA is: Edward Small and his contact details are mail, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 in person, at 25th floor, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000 by telephone on by fax on by , on
9 The Welfare Manager is responsible for looking after the general welfare of a discloser of a protected disclosure (if known). The Welfare Manager will: meet with the person making the protected disclosure, where this is appropriate, to support that person. examine the immediate welfare and protection needs of a discloser who has made a disclosure and seek to foster a supportive work environment. advise the discloser of the legislative and administrative protections available to them. listen and respond to any concerns of harassment, intimidation or victimisation in reprisal for making a disclosure. ensure the expectations of the discloser are realistic. take any possible actions to ensure that the discloser is protected from detrimental action as required. where the person making the protected disclosure consents and it is appropriate in the circumstances, meet with their supervisor to ensure any detrimental action is monitored, recorded and reported. ensure that the person making the protected disclosure understands the protection provided by the VPA against detrimental action, and the courses of action available where detrimental action is found to have occurred. This may include a discussion as to a possible transfer of employment in accordance with the Act. Ensure that confidentiality is maintained. The VPA takes its confidentiality obligations under the Act seriously. This includes the requirement to protect the identity of the discloser and the matters disclosed by a discloser. It is a criminal offence under the Act to disclose information connected with a disclosure made in accordance with the Act, including the identity of the discloser. The VPA will take all reasonable steps to protect the identity of the discloser (if known) and the matters disclosed by a discloser. Maintaining confidentiality in relation to protected disclosure matters is crucial, among other things, in ensuring reprisals are not made against a discloser. The obligation of confidentiality extends to any person making a disclosure. It is in the interest of the discloser to ensure that they do not discuss any related matters other than with authorised persons. Information management The VPA will ensure all files, whether paper or electronic, are kept securely. Those files will be accessible only by the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator and the Protected Disclosure Liaison Officer. Where necessary, a Welfare Manager may be able to gain access (where appropriate) to related welfare matters. Exemption - Freedom of Information Act 1982 ( FOI Act ) Section 78 of the Act excludes the application of the FOI Act to any disclosure related information, including any information that is likely to lead to the identification of a discloser. The relevant staff must ensure that is clearly marked on any relevant information.
10 The Act makes it a crime to disclose information connected with a disclosure made in accordance with the Act. Limited exceptions to the prohibition on disclosure are specified by the Act, include circumstances such as: where disclosure is required by the VPA (or one of its officers) in the exercise of functions of the VPA under the Act; where necessary for the purpose of the exercise of functions under the Act; by an investigating entity for the purpose of exercising that entity s functions under the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2011 ( IBAC Act ); in accordance with a direction or authorisation given by the investigating entity that is investigating the disclosure; to the extent necessary for the purpose of taking lawful action in relation to the conduct that is the subject of an assessable disclosure including a disciplinary process or action; where the IBAC or the Victorian Inspectorate has determined that the assessable disclosure is not a protected disclosure and the discloser or the VPA subsequently discloses the information; when an investigating entity had published a report to Parliament, in accordance with its confidentiality obligations; for the purpose of obtaining legal advice in relation to matters specified in the Act; in order to enable compliance with the Act: o where a person does not have a sufficient knowledge of the English language, to obtain a translation from an interpreter; o where a person is under 18 years of age, to a parent or guardian of a; o where a person is suffering a disability and is not able to understand, to an independent person; in disciplinary actions or legal proceedings for certain offences in the Act or other specified Acts. It is important to note that the Act prohibits the inclusion of any details, in any report or recommendation that is likely to lead to the identification of a discloser. The Act also prohibits the identification of the person who is the subject of the disclosure in any particulars included in an annual report or any reports to Parliament. The penalties for breaching the confidentiality required by the Act include imprisonment, financial payments or both. The VPA will: ensure that staff, employees, officers and members have access to a copy of these procedures in hard or soft copy; incorporate into its induction procedures training about the VPA s general obligations under the Act and the rights and obligations of all employees, staff and members; periodically provide refresher courses for existing staff, employees and members about their rights and obligations under the Act; provide additional training and assistance to: o any staff with functions and duties under the FOI Act or with responsibilities for information management, to ensure that no prohibited information is disclosed under the Act and to ensure there is appropriate liaising with IBAC staff or other investigative agencies where required in response to a request for access under the FOI Act; and
11 o all staff and employees dealing with customers to ensure any potential disclosures received from external sources can be handled appropriately in accordance with the Act and these procedures. The VPA is required to publish certain information about the Act in its annual reports. That information relates mainly to how these procedures may be accessed and information about its educative role during the financial year. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will establish a secure register to record such information. IBAC (Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission) Victoria Details on how to make a disclosure can be found at the IBAC website by following this link: Victorian Ombudsman Details on how to make a disclosure can be found at the Victorian Ombudsman website by following this link: Victorian Inspectorate Details on how to make a disclosure can be found at the IBAC website by following this link: Victorian Police A disclosure can be made to IBAC or a prescribed member of police personnel If the disclosure is about the Chief Commissioner of Police, please refer to IBAC. Disclosures about other public bodies or public officers Disclosures relating to improper conduct or detrimental action involving other public bodies or officers who are not employees, staff or members of the VPA may be made to the various bodies see the IBAC website & IBAC Guidelines for details. Once a disclosure has been notified to IBAC, IBAC will determine whether it is a protected disclosure complaint. Such a determination must be made within a reasonable time after the disclosure is notified to IBAC. If IBAC determines the disclosure is a protected disclosure complaint If the IBAC determines the disclosure is a protected disclosure complaint, the IBAC must advise the discloser in writing and within a reasonable time after the determination is made, that:
12 the IBAC has determined that the disclosure is a protected disclosure complaint; regardless of the determination, the protections available to a discloser of a protected disclosure under Part 6 of the Act apply; the discloser has rights, protections and obligations under the Act as contained in ss 72, 74 and Parts 6 and 7 of the Act, including an explanation of the effect of those sections and Parts of the Act; and it is an offence under s 74 of the Act to disclose that the IBAC has determined that the disclosure is a protected disclosure complaint. IBAC must deal with a protected disclosure complaint in accordance with the IBAC Act. The IBAC Act details the IBAC s powers and functions, including investigating, dismissing or referring the protected disclosure complaint to another investigative agency to be dealt with. If IBAC determines the disclosure is not a protected disclosure complaint If IBAC determines the disclosure is not a protected disclosure complaint, IBAC must advise the discloser in writing and within a reasonable time after the determination is made, that: IBAC has determined that the disclosure is not a protected disclosure complaint; and as a consequence of that determination: o the disclosure will not be investigated as a protected disclosure complaint; and o the confidentiality provisions under Part 7 of the Act no longer apply in relation to the disclosure; and regardless of whether IBAC has determined that the disclosure is a protected disclosure complaint, the protections under Part 6 apply to a protected disclosure. In addition, if IBAC is of the view that the disclosure, although not a protected disclosure complaint, may be able to be dealt with by another entity, IBAC may advise the discloser that: the matter which is the subject of the disclosure may be able to be dealt with by that entity other than as a protected disclosure complaint; and if the discloser wishes to pursue the matter, to make a complaint directly to that entity. The VPA is committed to the protection of genuine disclosers against detrimental action taken in reprisal for the making of protected disclosures. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator is responsible for ensuring disclosers are protected from direct and indirect detrimental action, and that the culture of the workplace and the VPA more broadly, is supportive of protected disclosures being made. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will appoint a Welfare Manager to all disclosers who have made a disclosure which has been notified to the VPA. The Welfare Manager will monitor the needs of the discloser and provide advice and support. The protections to disclosers extend to both internal and external sources making a protected disclosure under the Act. For internal disclosers, the Welfare Manager will ensure a supportive work environment and respond appropriately to any reports of intimidation or harassment against the discloser. For external disclosers, the Welfare Manager will take reasonable steps to provide appropriate support. The Welfare Manager will discuss reasonable expectations with all disclosers.
13 A person takes detrimental action against another person in reprisal for a protected disclosure if: the person takes, or threatens to take, detrimental action against the other person because, or in the belief that: o the other person or anyone else has made, or intends to make, the disclosure; or o the other person or anyone else has cooperated, or intends to cooperate, with an investigation of the disclosure; or for either of the reasons above, the person incites or permits someone else to take or threaten to take detrimental action against the other person. Protections available to disclosers All persons are cautioned it is an offence for a person to take detrimental action in reprisal for a protected disclosure. The penalties can be monetary or imprisonment. The taking of detrimental action in breach of the Act can also be grounds for making a disclosure under the Act and can result in an investigation by the IBAC or another investigative entity authorised under this Act or the IBAC Act. In addition, a discloser of a protected disclosure may: take civil action against the person who took detrimental action against the discloser and seek damages; take civil action against the VPA jointly and severally to seek damages if the person who took detrimental action against the discloser took that action in the course of employment with, or while acting as an agent of the VPA and apply for an order or an injunction from the Supreme Court. If a discloser reports an incident of harassment, discrimination or adverse treatment that would amount to detrimental action taken in reprisal for the making of a disclosure, the Welfare Manager will: record the details of the incident; advise the discloser of his or her rights under the Act; and inform, as soon as possible, the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator and the Chief Executive Officer of the detrimental action. The taking of detrimental action in reprisal for the making of a disclosure can be an offence under the Act as well as grounds for making a further disclosure. Where such detrimental action is reported, the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will advise the detrimental discloser to report the reprisal as a new disclosure under the Act. Where the detrimental action is of a serious nature likely to amount to a criminal offence, consideration will be given to reporting the matter to the police or IBAC (if the matter was not already the subject of a disclosure notified to IBAC). Where a discloser is implicated in improper conduct, and the VPA has been advised of the situation, the VPA will protect the discloser from reprisals in accordance with the Act, the IBAC s guidelines and these procedures. The VPA acknowledges that the act of disclosing should not shield disclosers from the reasonable consequences flowing from any involvement in improper conduct.
14 The Act specifically provides that a person s liability for his or her own conduct is not affected by the person s disclosure of that conduct under the Act, and the Act provides that the discloser is not subject to criminal or civil liability for making the disclosure. However, in some circumstances, an admission may be a mitigating factor when considering disciplinary or other action. The Chief Executive Officer will make the final decision on the advice of the Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator as to whether disciplinary or other action will be taken against a discloser. Where disciplinary or other action relates to conduct that is the subject of the disclosure, the disciplinary or other action will only be taken after the disclosed matter has been appropriately dealt with. In all cases where disciplinary or other action is being contemplated, the Chief Executive Officer must be satisfied it has been clearly demonstrated that: the intention to proceed with disciplinary action is not causally connected to the making of the disclosure (as opposed to the content of the disclosure or other available information); there are good and sufficient grounds that would fully justify action against any nondiscloser in the same circumstances; and there are good and sufficient grounds that justify exercising any discretion to institute disciplinary or other action. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will thoroughly document the process including recording the reasons why the disciplinary or other action is being taken, and the reasons why the action is not in retribution for the making of a disclosure. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will advise the discloser clearly of the proposed action to be taken, and of any mitigating factors that have been taken into account. In addition, the Act permits the VPA to take management action in relation to a discloser which may amount to detrimental action, only if the fact that the discloser made a protected disclosure is not a substantial reason for the taking of that management action. The VPA recognises that persons against whom disclosures are made must also be supported during the handling and investigation of disclosures. Where the VPA has been informed, the VPA will take all reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of the person who is the subject of the disclosure during investigation process. Consistent with the VPA s confidentiality obligations under the Act as outlined in these procedures, the fact that a disclosure has been made, whether it has been notified to the IBAC for assessment, any information received from the IBAC or another investigative agency, the identities of persons involved will not be divulged. The Protected Disclosure Liaison Coordinator will provide support and advice to a person the subject of a disclosure, particularly in relation to their rights and obligations under the Act, the VPA s internal recording system, these procedures, and any other relevant law or code of conduct. The VPA will give its full support to a person who is the subject of a disclosure where the allegations contained in a disclosure are clearly wrong or unsubstantiated. If the matter has been publicly disclosed by the VPA, the Chief Executive Officer will consider any request by that person to issue a statement of support.
15 These procedures will be reviewed biennially or upon significant change to the Act, the Regulations or the IBAC s guidelines to ensure they comply with the requirements of the Act, the Regulations and the IBAC s guidelines.
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