Public Interest Disclosure Scheme
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) establishes a public interest disclosure scheme for public officials to raise concerns about alleged disclosable conduct by agencies or other public officials.
The public interest disclosure scheme promotes integrity and accountability in the Australian public sector by:
- encouraging and facilitating the disclosure of information by public officials about suspected wrongdoing in the public sector;
- ensuring that public officials who make public interest disclosures are supported and protected from reprisals for raising their concerns; and
- ensuring that disclosures by public officials are properly investigated and dealt with.
In order to receive the protections and immunities under the PID Act, including protection from reprisals, disclosers must ensure that:
- they are eligible to make a disclosure; and
- the information is about disclosable conduct; and
- they make the disclosure to the correct person (this can change, depending on which agency the disclosure is about and where the discloser works).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman (and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security for intelligence agencies) has responsibility for the PID Scheme and further information is available at www.ombudsman.gov.au.
Who is eligible to make a disclosure
A disclosure can be made by a current or former public official. This includes public servants (ongoing, non-ongoing and casual) and parliamentary service employees, service providers under a Commonwealth contract, statutory office holders, staff of Commonwealth companies and temporary employees engaged through a recruitment agency. A public official also includes any other person deemed by the authorised officer to be a public official for the purposes of the PID Act.
What is a disclosure under the PID Act
A disclosure is information that tends to show, or that the public official reasonably believes tends to show, disclosable conduct. Disclosable conduct is conduct engaged in by an agency, public official or contracted service provider. Types of conduct include:
- illegal conduct
- abuse of public trust
- deception relating to scientific research
- wastage of public money
- unreasonable danger to health and safety or to the environment.
Disclosable conduct does not include conduct if it relates only to a policy or proposed policy of the Commonwealth Government and/or associated expenditure, or action taken, or proposed to be taken by a Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or the President of the Senate.
Who internal disclosures can be made to
Generally, an internal disclosure under the PID Act can be made to:
- an authorised officer within the disclosing public official’s current or previous agency;
- an authorised officer of the agency that the disclosable conduct relates to; or
- the Commonwealth Ombudsman (or the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security for intelligence agencies), if the discloser thinks that is appropriate.
This means that public official disclosers should only make a disclosure to authorised officers of the Commission if they belong or last belonged to the Commission, or the disclosure is about the Commission (or a public official in the Commission).
Note: the Commission is not an investigative agency under the PID Act
If you are still unsure whether you can make a disclosure to under the PID Act given your circumstances and the nature of the concerns you have, you can also seek guidance and assistance from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, which has a range of resources available on their website:
Making an internal disclosure to the Commission
Authorised officers of the Commission can generally only accept internal disclosures that are:
- made by a public official about disclosable conduct that was engaged in by the Commission or a public official that belonged to the Commission at the time of the alleged conduct;
- made by a public official that belongs (or last belonged) to the Commission.
Internal disclosures may be made anonymously, verbally and/or in writing to an authorised officer of the Commission.
An authorised officer will be responsible for allocating your disclosure in accordance with the Commission's Public Interest Disclosure Procedures and may need to seek further information before deciding the allocation.
The Authorised Officers for the Australian Public Service Commission are:
You can also make a public interest disclosure in writing to:
Australian Public Service Commission
B Block, Treasury Building
Parkes Place West, Parkes ACT 2600
GPO Box 3176 Canberra ACT 2601
For further information on how a disclosure is managed within the Commission.