Public Interest Disclosure
We’ve all heard the term ‘whistleblowing’ - The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act), replaced the whistleblowing provisions in January 2014. But it’s not just about a name change.
About the Commonwealth Public Interest Disclosure (PID) scheme
The purpose of the PID scheme is to:
- encourage the report of suspected wrongdoing
- make agencies responsible for managing disclosures
- ensure disclosures are properly investigated and dealt with
- protect and support disclosers who make reports of wrongdoing
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 applies to this scheme and protects people making disclosures in most cases. The Act applies across the Australian Government public sector.
What information can I report?
You can report / disclose information that you believe on reasonable grounds tends to show, wrongdoing within an Australian Government agency, or by a public official, or a Commonwealth contracted service provider.
You may disclose the following types of suspected wrongdoing:
- Contravention of a law
- Conduct that perverts the course of justice
- Wastage of public funds
- Conduct that is an abuse of public trust
- Conduct that unreasonably endangers health and safety or endangers the environment
- Misconduct relating to scientific research, analysis or advice
- Maladministration, including conduct that is unjust, oppressive or negligent
- Conduct that is an abuse of a public official's position
- Conduct that, if proved, would result in disciplinary action against a public official
You cannot disclose:
- the proper activities of intelligence agencies
- disagreements that relate only to government policy (and related expenditure)
- the actions of parliamentarians.
Not all matters will fall under the PID Act. It may be more appropriate for your disclosure to be dealt with under another process.
Also, matters that have already been subject to a previous investigation process may not be further investigated under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.
Making a PID in the Digital Transformation Agency
Public interest disclosures can be made by a current or former public official. This includes:
- any person who is, or was, employed by the Australian Government
- individuals employed by any Commonwealth companies, authorities and statutory agencies, the Parliamentary service, statutory officeholders
- service providers under contract to the Commonwealth and anyone employed by them
Public interest disclosures can be made orally or in writing:
- by a DTA employee to their supervisor
- to a DTA authorised officer at PIDadvice@dta.gov.au
- in very limited circumstances, to a person outside the government other than a foreign official
You can also report anonymously, however:
- we cannot ensure you are protected from all reprisal action
- it can make further investigation difficult
- we cannot provide you with updates on the progress of the investigation
To contact DTA authorised officers:
- send an email to PIDadvice@dta.gov.au
- write to DTA PID Team, People Branch, PO Box 457, Canberra 2600 (all envelopes and packages should be clearly marked ‘confidential – open by addressee only’)
- contact us
Read more about how we manage public interest disclosures in DTA in our PID Procedures.
Protections offered under the PID Act
If you make a public interest disclosure under the Act (even if an investigation subsequently determines that there was no wrongdoing), you are protected in two ways.
You cannot be subject to any civil, criminal or administrative liability, including disciplinary action, for making a disclosure in accordance with the PID Act, and no contractual or other remedy can be enforced against you on the basis of your disclosure.
This protection does not apply if you knowingly make a statement that is false or misleading. It also does not apply if you knowingly contravene, without a reasonable excuse, certain publication restrictions listed in the PID Act.
You are also protected against reprisal. It is an offence for any person to cause you any detriment because they suspect or believe that you made or will make a public interest disclosure.
Information you will need to provide
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Guide to making a Disclosure includes helpful information on what to include in your report of suspected wrongdoing
- your name and contact details unless you wish to remain anonymous
- the nature of the wrongdoing
- who committed the wrongdoing
- when and where the wrongdoing occurred
- relevant background information and events
- if anything has been done in response to the wrongdoing
- contact details for anyone else who is aware of the wrongdoing and has allowed it to continue
- whether you believe the information is a public interest disclosure under the PID Act. However, it does not need to be described this way for it to be treated as a public interest disclosure
- if you are concerned about possible reprisal as a result of making a disclosure
You can find more information about making a Public Interest Disclosure on the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.