Information for Agencies

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) applies to Australian Government agencies, Commonwealth companies, public authorities and Commonwealth contracted service providers.

The PID Act gives each agency a central role in handling public interest disclosures (PID) about their agency and from their officials, and managing any related reprisal risk. Here is the flowchart for dealing with an internal disclosure.

What is an internal public interest disclosure?

Conducting an investigation

Agency Heads (Principal Officers)

Departmental Secretaries, Chief Executive Officers and other heads of Australian government agencies and Commonwealth companies play a key role under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) as principal officers.

A principal officer needs to:

  • appoint a sufficient number of authorised officers to receive disclosures in the agency
  • ensure the authorised officers are readily accessible to current and former public officials and contracted service providers who belong to the agency
  • establish written PID procedures for the agency and ensure these are accessible for current and former public officials and contractors who belong to the agency
  • broadly promote the PID scheme to public officials and contracted service providers as a safe and effective way to speak up about wrongdoing
  • promptly act to address allegations of wrongdoing by public officials
  • delegate only those powers and responsibilities as are necessary for the effective operation of the PID scheme
  • influence an organisational culture that supports public officials who speak up about wrongdoing and does not tolerate reprisal against them
  • drive change to address problems uncovered through the investigation of disclosures made under the PID Act.

Agency head (principal officer) resources includes the following:

  • Information sheet  Responsibilities of principal officers
  • Guide - Agency guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act
  • NEW - Public Interest Disclosure Scheme Reference Guide - setting out key actions for officers with a role in the PID scheme
  • FAQs

Authorised Officers

Authorised officers are public officials working within Australian Government agencies who have been appointed to accept public interest disclosures (PID) about their agency, and from the officials who belong to it. Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act), authorised officers have the responsibility for receiving, assessing and allocating PIDs.

Authorised officers must be appointed in writing by the head of the agency (the principal officer). There must be sufficient authorised officers who are accessible to current and former public officials to make a PID. Information about how to make contact with authorised officers should be easy to find on an agency's internal and external facing website.

Authorised officers need to:

  • provide advice to public officials about the PID process, including how to make a PID, how the protections and immunities apply, and the reprisal risk assessment process
  • assess all allegations of wrongdoing under the PID Act and decide if they constitute a PID (making preliminary inquiries to inform decision making as appropriate)
  • obtain consent to disclose the public official's name and contact details for the purpose of handling the PID and adhere to the PID Act confidentiality and secrecy requirements
  • identify and address any possible conflict of interests that may affect the handling of the PID
  • allocate the PID to the principal officer or an appropriately delegated PID investigator
  • notify the public official, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the principal officer if the matter is a PID and of the allocation decision
  • make appropriate records of their decision making.

Note: Authorised Officers may also have a role in conducting a reprisal risk assessment - this should be outlined in an agency's PID procedures.

Authorised officer resources includes the following:

  • Information sheet - Role of Authorised Officers
  • Guide - Agency guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act
  • Forms - notification of allocation form
  • FAQs

Supervisors

Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) supervisors play a role in facilitating their staff to make public interest disclosures (PID).

Where a staff member discloses to their supervisor information about suspected wrongdoing within the public sector, the PID Act may be triggered. It is not necessary for the public official to assert to their supervisor, or even intend, that the information be disclosed for the purposes of the PID Act.

To fulfil their obligations under the PID Act, supervisors need to:

  • Clarify the claims or allegations about wrongdoing being made by their staff member (preferably, by putting them into writing and agreeing it with the staff member)
  • Explain the PID process to the staff member and the supervisor's obligations to pass the information to an authorised officer
  • Obtain the staff member's consent to disclose their name and contact details to the authorised officer
  • Report the matter to an authorised officer in a timely and confidential manner (avoiding any authorised officers who may have a conflict of interest)
  • Support the staff member and monitor the situation for any reprisal or workplace conflict (taking action or escalating to an appropriate officer where appropriate).

Supervisor's resources includes the following:

  • Supervisors and the PID scheme (NEW)
  • NEW - Public Interest Disclosure Scheme Reference Guide - setting out key actions for officers with a role in the PID scheme
  • FAQs

PID Investigation Officers

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) requires agency heads (principal officers) to investigate PIDs. The investigation function may be delegated to a public official within the principal officer's agency.

Officers charged with the responsibility for investigating PIDs should:

  • promptly inform the discloser that their PID is being investigated and the estimated length of the investigation, and explain the investigation powers and discretions to not investigate in the PID Act
  • identify and address any possible conflict of interests
  • investigate and make inquiries as they see fit in relation to the disclosable conduct
  • ensure their investigation complies with the PID Act (Part 3) and the PID Standards (Part 3)
    • comply with procedures under s 15(3) of the Public Service Act 1999 or s 15(3) of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 if investigating alleged breaches of the relevant code of conduct,
    • comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy and Australian Government Investigation Standards if investigating allegations of fraud in non-corporate Commonwealth entities,
  • ensure procedural fairness is observed
  • adhere to the PID Act confidentiality and secrecy requirements
  • alert the responsible officers if they become aware of any reprisal risks
  • communicate with the discloser about the investigation process and keep them informed of progress, particularly if there are delays
  • comply with the time frame of 90 days to complete a PID investigation (or seek an extension of time if required from the Commonwealth Ombudsman or IGIS)
  • produce a written report on outcome of the investigation
  • prepare a copy of the report for the discloser - consider whether deletions are appropriate (s 51(5) of the PID Act)
  • provide a copy of the report to the discloser - within a reasonable period after the investigation was finalised
  • ensure appropriate records are made throughout the investigation process
  • ensure records are appropriately classified and stored so that only officers that are authorised either by the PID Act or another law of the Commonwealth can access the PID information.

PID investigation officer resources includes the following:

  • Legislation - Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
  • Legislation - Public Interest Disclosure Standard
  • Guide - Agency guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act
  • NEW - Public Interest Disclosure Scheme Reference Guide - setting out key actions for officers with a role in the PID scheme
  • Forms - notification of decision not to investigate
  • Forms - request for extension of time
  • FAQs

Officers Responsible for Reprisal Risk Assessment

Agencies must have procedures to assess the risk of reprisal action against a person who makes a PID (a discloser), or who may be suspected to have made a PID.

It is up to the agency to nominate who within their agency has the responsibility for conducting reprisal risk assessments.

An officer conducting a reprisal risk assessment must ensure that they:

  • act promptly and confidentially to conduct the reprisal risk assessment
  • inform themselves of the risk of reprisal or workplace conflict by making appropriate inquiries including by talking to the discloser
  • broaden their assessment to look at others who may be at risk, including supervisors and colleagues
  • communicate with the discloser to monitor their wellbeing
  • mitigate harm and nominate a support person if appropriate
  • reassess the risk throughout the PID process and apply further support and mitigations as necessary (e.g. when key witnesses are interviewed)
  • take proactive action to prevent or address reprisal or workplace conflict
  • adhere to the PID Act confidentiality and secrecy requirements.

Resources for officers conducting reprisal risk assessment includes:

  • Guide - Agency guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act
  • Guide - Managing the risk of reprisal
  • NEW - Public Interest Disclosure Scheme Reference Guide - setting out key actions for officers with a role in the PID scheme
  • FAQs

Contracted Service Providers

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) also applies to contractors and subcontractors providing goods or services under a Commonwealth contract, either for or on behalf of an Australian Government agency.

A person who is a contractor (or subcontractor) under a Commonwealth contract can make a public interest disclosure (PID). Officers and employees of those contractors and subcontractors can also make a PID.

Contracted service providers do not have to establish their own procedures for receiving PIDs. They and their employees and officers:

  • are considered to be public officials belonging to the agency that is the other party to the contract
  • may make a PID to that agency or to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

If the PID is about a different agency, it can be made to an authorised officer in that other agency or to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Contracted service providers and their officers and employees who make a PID will receive the protections and immunities available under the PID Act.

PIDs can also be made about disclosable conduct on the part of contractors to Australian Government agencies and their officers and employees. However, the conduct must be related to the entering into or performance of the contract with the agency.

Contracted service providers should:

For further information or assistance regarding the Public Interest Disclosure (PID), phone 02 6276 5777 or email PID@ombudsman.gov.au