USQ takes its responsibilities under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) seriously. Disclosures at USQ can be made by employees (under section 13 of the Act) or by any other persons (under section 12 of the Act). USQ believes that USQ employees have an ethical obligation to disclose the kinds of wrongdoing covered by the Act.
What is a PID?
A Public Interest Disclosure is the provision of information about wrongdoing in the Queensland public sector, including USQ. (‘Wrongdoing’ is described below). The University's Public Interest Disclosure and Policy and Procedure stems from its obligations under Queensland’s Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.
PID disclosures are usually about the conduct of USQ employees, and can be made confidentially by way of complaints or grievances, and anonymously. The University is obliged to assess whether certain allegations of wrongdoing should be treated as PID disclosures even if the USQ employee who provides the information is not aware of the University’s PID Policy or the legislation.
The purpose of the PID legislation
The main purpose of the PID legislation is to encourage a greater degree of ethical practice, openness and accountability in the Queensland public sector.
The PID legislation therefore encourages disclosure about suspected wrongdoing so that it can be carefully assessed and investigated where necessary. USQ’s PID Policy states that USQ employees have an ethical responsibility to report wrongdoing. Organisations are expected to benefit from PID disclosures through improvements in the organisation’s culture, practices and reputation.
‘Whistleblower’ legislation, as it is also commonly referred to, encourages the reporting of public sector wrongdoing at State, Territory and Commonwealth levels, as well as in many other parts of the world.
Protection against reprisal
An important principle of the legislation is the recognition that employees who speak up about wrongdoing must be protected as far as possible from reprisal action by persons complained about. This protection is reflected in USQ’s Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure.
What is PID wrongdoing?
The legislation and the policy specify kinds of conduct that may amount to PID wrongdoing. Disclosures or complaints from USQ employees must be handled as PID matters if they are assessed to involve credible allegations about:
- 'corrupt conduct', which is comparable to 'serious misconduct' at USQ
- 'maladministration' that adversely affects someone's interests in a 'substantial and specific' way
- a substantial misuse of public resources
- a substantial and specific danger to public health, safety or the environment
- a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability
- a reprisal.
Importantly, false or misleading disclosures or complaints are not tolerated. They can lead to prosecution for an offence under the legislation.
The USQ PID process
When a complaint or disclosure is made to one of the people named in the Policy, the information is referred to the University’s PID Coordinator who makes an initial assessment about whether the matter meets PID requirements. If it does, the Coordinator considers possible support and protection for the discloser and refers the matter to a suitable investigator (internal and/or external).
Within a reasonable time, the investigator provides a report to the Coordinator, who refers it to the Vice-Chancellor if any further action is recommended. The Vice-Chancellor then decides what further action is required, and by whom. The Coordinator informs those involved about the result of the investigation and any additional steps taken and also reports certain details to the State Ombudsman. In some cases, matters are also reported to the Crime and Corruption Commission, which may also require that certain action be taken to address the issues.
The entire process is handled with a high degree of confidentiality and according to the principles of natural justice where required.
Who at USQ should be familiar with PID principles?
Ideally, all USQ employees, especially those in management, supervisory and Human Resource roles should be familiar with their rights and responsibilities under the PID Policy. When receiving complaints or information about possible PID wrongdoing, they must know how to act on the information.