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Protected disclosure procedures

1. Statement

State Library Victoria ('Library' or 'SLV') recognises the value of transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices, and supports the making of disclosures that reveal improper conduct. SLV is committed to the aims and objectives of the Protected Disclosures Act 2012 (Vic) (the 'Act') and does not tolerate improper conduct by its staff, nor victimisation or reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct.

These procedures are prepared in accordance with the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 (Vic) and Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) guidelines.

2. Definitions

Corrupt conduct means:

  • conduct of any person (whether or not a public official) that adversely affects the honest performance of a public officer's or public body's functions
  • the performance of a public officer functions dishonestly
  • conduct of a public officer, former public officer or a public body that amounts to a breach of public trust
  • conduct by a public officer, former public officer or a public body that amounts to the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of their official functions
  • a conspiracy or attempt to engage in the above conduct.

Detrimental action includes action causing injury, loss or damage; intimidation or harassment; discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to a person’s employment, career, profession, trade or business, including the taking of disciplinary action.

Improper conduct means conduct that is corrupt, a substantial mismanagement of public resources or conduct involving substantial risk to public health or safety or to the environment. The conduct must be serious enough to constitute, if proved, a criminal offence or reasonable grounds for dismissal.

Protected disclosure means a report made by a person about improper conduct of public bodies or public officers to any of the organisations specified in Part 2 of the Protected Disclosures 2012 Act (Vic).

Principal Officer (CEO): Obliged to notify IBAC when there are reasonable grounds to suspect corruption is occurring or has occurred in agency.

Protected Disclosure Coordinator (Director Corporate Services): Nominated to receive and notify IBAC of potential protected disclosures. Fosters a supportive work environment and manages the impact of any investigation.

Library Board of Victoria (SLV): A statutory authority that governs the operations and activities of State Library Victoria, a State Government entity. The Board represents the Victorian Government and is subject to the control of the Minister.

Staff: For the purposes of these procedures, references to 'staff' includes employees, officers and members of the Board.

3. Objectives

To establish a system for reporting disclosures and for the protection of persons from detrimental action taken by SLV or its staff.

The SLV cannot receive disclosures that are deemed, or assessed to be, protected disclosures in relation to improper conduct or detrimental action. All such protected disclosures shall be directed to IBAC.

4. Scope

These procedures apply to all staff.

5. Procedural principles

5.1 Who can make a protected disclosure?

Protected disclosures about improper conduct or detrimental action taken by the SLV or its staff can be made by an individual or by a group of individuals.

Protected disclosures can be made by staff, volunteers, research fellows, members of the public or an employee, officer or member of another department or public body. A company or business is not authorised to make a protected disclosure.

5.2 Making a protected disclosure

If you want to make a disclosure about SLV or its staff, and want that disclosure to be protected, you must make the disclosure to IBAC. IBAC's contact details are:

Level 1, North Tower
459 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3001
GPO Box 24234
Phone: 1300 735 135

A protected disclosure must be made in private, and may be made:
(a) in person
(b) by phone
(c) by leaving a voicemail message
(d) in writing by post, personal delivery or email
(e) by any other form of electronic communication
(f) anonymously.

5.3 What could a protected disclosure be about?

A protected disclosure could be about information that a person believes, on reasonable grounds, that demonstrates or tends to demonstrate that a person, public officer or public body is engaging in, or proposing to engage in, improper conduct and/or detrimental action.

The conduct being disclosed must be in the performance of a person or body's function as a public officer or public body. Public bodies include the SLV. Public officers include SLV staff. The conduct being disclosed must be improper conduct and/or detrimental action.

5.4 'Reasonable grounds'

Reasonable grounds requires the belief that improper conduct or detrimental action has occurred, is occurring, or will occur. You must have reasonable grounds for your belief.

A mere suspicion, allegation or conclusion that is unsupported by further information, facts or circumstances will not be protected under the Act. You must have information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the information shows, or tends to show, improper conduct or detrimental action.

5.5 Offences under the Act

Under the Act, it is an offence:
(a)    To take detrimental action against another person in reprisal for a protected disclosure.

(b)     To disclose the content, or information about the content, of a disclosure that has been notified to IBAC by the SLV or information that is likely to lead to the identification of the person who made that disclosure unless permitted to by the Act.

(c)     For any person to:
(i)    provide false or misleading information, or further information that relates to a protected disclosure, that the person knows to be false or misleading in a material particular, intending that the information be acted on as a protected disclosure
(ii)    claim that a matter is the subject of a protected disclosure knowing the claim to be false
(iii)    falsely claim that a matter is the subject of a disclosure that IBAC has determined to be a protected disclosure complaint.

(d)    For any person to:
(i)    disclose that a disclosure has been notified to IBAC for assessment unless permitted to do so by the Act
(ii)    disclose that a disclosure has been determined to be a protected disclosure complaint unless permitted to do so by the Act.

6. Definitions

Key concepts are improper conduct, corrupt conduct and detrimental action. The definitions are set out above.

Examples of improper conduct include:
(a)    The SLV or its staff take a bribe or receive payment in exchange for the discharge of a public duty.
(b)    The SLV or its staff sell confidential information.
(c)    A staff member favours unmeritorious applications for jobs or engagement for goods and services by friends and relatives.

Examples of detrimental action include:
(a)    The SLV refuses a deserved promotion of a person who makes a disclosure.
(b)    The SLV demotes, transfers, isolates or changes the duties of a whistleblower due to the making of a disclosure.
(c)    A person threatens, abuses or carries out other forms of harassment directly or indirectly against the whistleblower, his or her family or friends.
(d)    The SLV discriminates against the whistleblower or his or her family and associates in subsequent applications for jobs, permits or tenders.

7. Dealing with detrimental action

7.1 Dealing with detrimental action

The SLV, together with the nominated Protected Disclosure Coordinator, will take precautions to prevent staff from taking detrimental action in reprisal for a protected disclosure by identifying, assessing, controlling and monitoring risks of reprisals faced by disclosers and witnesses.

The Protected Disclosure Coordinator will assess the individual circumstances of each case, and the disclosers and witnesses will, where possible, be consulted about any action that is taken.

A disclosure of detrimental action is itself a protected disclosure and should be made to IBAC. IBAC will assess it as a new disclosure according to its own guidelines and processes. Where the detrimental action is of a serious nature that is likely to amount to a criminal offence, the SLV may consider reporting the matter to the police.

If the Protected Disclosure Coordinator receives a disclosure, the details of the incident should be recorded and the discloser must be advised of his/her rights under the Act to make a disclosure to IBAC.

7.2 Transfer of employees

A staff member who has made a disclosure and believes on reasonable grounds that detrimental action is being taken against him or her may request a transfer of employment. A staff member may be transferred internally to a different area of the Library on similar terms and conditions of employment. This can only happen on request or by consent to a transfer. Alternatively, a staff member could be transferred to duties within a Department.

The following conditions apply to transfers:
(a)    The CEO must have reasonable grounds to suspect detrimental action will be, is being, or has been taken against the employee.
(b)    The CEO must consider that the transfer will avoid, reduce or eliminate the risk of detrimental action.
(c)    Where transfer to another public body is proposed, that body must consent to the transfer.

8. Welfare Services

The SLV recognises that the welfare and protection from detrimental action of persons making genuine protected disclosures is essential for the effective implementation of the Act and is relevant to the SLV's obligation to create a safe working environment under legislation including the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, the Public Administration Act 2004 and the common law.

The SLV will take reasonable steps to provide welfare support to a discloser or a witness in an investigation, or persons who are the subject of the protected disclosure, or those who have cooperated or intend to cooperate with an investigation of a protected disclosure complaint, as the circumstances require. The SLV provides an independent Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to staff.

9. Confidentiality

The SLV must keep certain information confidential, including the identity of the person making the disclosure. Ensuring that the person making the disclosure cannot be identified may help protect the discloser from detrimental action. The SLV cannot receive protected disclosures under the Act. Any protected disclosures made to it will be referred to IBAC as outlined above.

10. Review

These procedures will be reviewed to ensure that they meet the objectives of the Act and are in accordance with guidelines published by IBAC.

Related documents

Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Service Employees
Code of Conduct for Directors of Public Service Entities
Enterprise Partnership Agreement 2016
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Protected Disclosures Act 2012
Public Administration Act 2004