This guide shows the public and our staff how to make a public interest disclosure to the Commission.

Public interest disclosures are when people report improper conduct and corruption in the Victorian public sector.

Many people know this as whistleblowing.

Before you start

Read the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s (IBAC) guidelines.

They answer these questions:

  • What is a public interest disclosure?
  • Who can make a disclosure and to whom?
  • How do I assess if I have received a public interest disclosure?
  • What do I do if I receive a disclosure?
  • What protections does the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 provide?
  • What procedures do I need to have in place?
  • Is a public interest disclosure the right approach?

You can also contact us with any concerns or complaints you have, instead of making a public interest disclosure.

If you work at the Commission, think about if you can raise your issue with a manager.

What to know before you start the process

To make a public interest disclosure, you need to have reasonable grounds that a public sector employee or public sector organisation:

  • has engaged in improper conduct or detrimental action
  • is going to engage in improper conduct or detrimental action

You can only make a disclosure if it’s about the performance of a person or organisation’s function in the public sector.

Think carefully about whether your disclosure meets these basic thresholds.

Improper conduct

Improper conduct must be either criminal conduct, serious professional misconduct or other conduct specified in Section 4 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012.

Examples of this are:

  • A public servant takes a bribe or receives a payment other than their wages in exchange for the discharge of a public duty.
  • A public servant sells confidential information.
  • A public servant favours job applications from friends and relatives.

Detrimental action

Detrimental action is when someone retaliates through harassment, discrimination or other adverse action against:

  • a person who makes a disclosure
  • or against someone who cooperates with an investigation of a disclosure

It isn’t action by a manager where they have good grounds to justify their actions and where a disclosure isn’t the substantial reason they’re taking action against you.

Examples of detrimental action are:

  • A public organisation demotes, transfers, isolates or changes the duties of a person for making a disclosure.
  • A person threatens, abuses or carries out other forms of harassment directly or indirectly against the person, their family or friends because they made a disclosure.
  • A public organisation discriminates against the person, their family or friends and peers in applications for jobs or tenders because they made a disclosure.

Victoria has protections in place to keep a person’s identity confidential and protect them against retaliation in the form of bullying, harassment or legal action.

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 tells you about what protections you have when making a public interest disclosure.

These protections apply from the time you make a disclosure to us, even if we decide your disclosure doesn’t comply with the Act.

They also apply if you’re asked to give us, IBAC or another investigating body more information.

If IBAC don’t think your disclosure should become a public interest complaint, you’ll still get protections.

Read more about your protections in the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s (IBAC) guidelines.

You must make a disclosure in private.

This means only the person you’re disclosing to can hear or receive it. Your protections may not apply if you don’t do this.

If you’re thinking about going public with your disclosure, first speak with your:

  • Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator
  • welfare manager
  • or get legal advice

It’s against the law for anyone to release information about your public interest disclosure that may lead to your identification.

But in-line with the law, the confidentiality about your disclosure may not apply:

  • when an investigating body authorises the release of information about your disclosure
  • if someone needs to take legal action
  • If IBAC decide your public interest disclosure never met the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012
  • if your confidentiality means someone can’t comply with the law
  • if you or someone in relation to your disclosure breaks the law
  • if someone needs to get legal advice or representation
  • if an interpreter, parent, guardian or person needs to understand how the law protects confidentiality
  • if an investigating body publishes a report to Parliament or in public

If an investigating body or person receives information about your disclosure, they’re bound by the same confidentiality laws.

We try to prevent our staff from taking detrimental action by managing the risks a discloser or witness may face.

We’ll try and consult with the discloser or witness about how we should manage the risk, but how we manage it changes based on the situation.

If someone says they’ve witnessed detrimental action, the person they tell needs to record what happened and let them know how the law protects them.

If you witness detrimental action and report it, we treat this as a new public interest disclosure and assess it using this process.

If the disclosure may lead to a criminal offence, we may tell the police or Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

You must make a disclosure in private. This means only the person you’re disclosing to can hear or receive it. Your protections may not apply if you don’t do this.

If you’re thinking about going public with your disclosure, first speak with your Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator or welfare manager, or get legal advice.

If you work for us and have made a disclosure, you may ask to transfer to another public sector organisation if you believe your disclosure will lead to detrimental action against you.

You don’t have to find a place to transfer yourself, but you can suggest one.

The place you transfer to must offer similar employment terms and conditions to your current role which are not worse off to you overall.

To transfer:

  • our Commissioner must be satisfied there are reasonable grounds to suspect someone may, will or has taken detrimental action against you
  • our Commissioner believes the transfer will avoid, reduce or eliminate the risk of detrimental action
  • the head of the organisation receiving you consents to the request

If you’ve sustained injury, loss or damage from someone taking detrimental action against you, there are options available to you in the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012. But we recommend you also get legal advice.

It’s an offence for any person to:

  • take detrimental action against another person as retaliation for them making a public interest disclosure
  • release the content or information about the content of a disclosure that will lead to identifying the person who made it, unless allowed by law
  • give false or misleading information in a disclosure
  • give further information about a disclosure that a person knows is false or misleading
  • make false claims about a disclosure or public interest complaint, or the status of either of these
  • tell anyone that the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has been notified to assess a disclosure, unless allowed by law
  • tell anyone that a disclosure is now a public interest complaint, unless allowed by law

If you need it, we’ll support you while we investigate any public interest disclosure made against you.

This may mean we appoint you a welfare manager.

We’ll protect your confidentiality, in-line with the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012.

If we find the disclosure isn’t valid, we’ll still protect the confidentiality of:

  • the fact we investigated the disclosure
  • the results of the investigation
  • your identity

Process to make a public interest disclosure

If you want to make a disclosure about the Victorian Public Sector Commission or our staff, use this process. If you work for us, you can also use this process.

If you want to make a disclosure about another organisation or their staff, make a complaint to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

We can still receive disclosures about other organisations, but we recommend you send them to IBAC.

If in doubt, make your disclosure to IBAC, unless the disclosure is about IBAC or its staff.

Are you an individual or group of individuals?

Any member of the public, VPS employee or public sector employee can make a disclosure.

You must make a disclosure as an individual or group of individuals, not as a company or business.

You can ask someone to make a disclosure on your behalf. But if you do this, you won’t have the same protections as if you made it yourself.

If someone makes a disclosure on your behalf, the law will protect your confidentiality and any retaliation against you.

Is your disclosure about performance in the public sector?

You can only make a disclosure if it’s about the performance of a person or organisation’s function in the public sector.

You must be able to link the allegations to their performance.

Do you have ‘reasonable grounds’ to make the disclosure?

Reasonable grounds means you have proof for your disclosure or believe it’s true.

If you make a disclosure based on suspicion, allegation or a conclusion you’ve come to and can’t give us any more information on top of that, the law won’t protect you.

An example of reasonable grounds is:

  • It’s not enough to say ‘I know [name of person] is corrupt’. You must have information a reasonable person would believe shows their corruption.

Is your disclosure about improper conduct or detrimental action?

To make a public interest disclosure, you need to have reasonable grounds that a public sector employee or public sector organisation:

  • has engaged in improper conduct or detrimental action
  • is going to engage in improper conduct or detrimental action

You can only make a disclosure if it’s about the performance of a person or organisation’s function in the public sector.

Think carefully that your disclosure meets these basic thresholds.

You can make a disclosure:

  • in person
  • by phone
  • by leaving a voicemail message
  • in writing by post, personal delivery or email
  • by any other form of electronic communication

You can disclose anonymously but this may affect how we investigate it and we won’t tell you the outcome.

You must make a disclosure in private. This means only the person you’re disclosing to can hear or receive it.

If you make a written disclosure

The person who receives your disclosure must get it personally.

For example:

  • if you disclose by email, send it to a personal or ‘disclosure coordinator’ email address and not a group or shared email address
  • if you drop off your disclosure in person, you must personally address and seal it

If you make a verbal disclosure

The person who receives your disclosure may take notes of your discussion.

With your permission, they may record your discussion.

At the Victorian Public Sector Commission, you can make your disclosure to:

  • the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator
  • the manager of the person you’re making the disclosure about
  • the Commissioner
  • a person acting in any of the positions above
  • or you can make a disclosure to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)

Where to send your disclosure

Email

public.interest.disclosure@vpsc.vic.gov.au

Phone

03 7004 7245

Post

3 Treasury Place, Melbourne VIC 3002

Our Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator will let you know we’ve received your disclosure verbally or in writing.

They’ll also let you know what the next steps and timeframes are.

How we assess your public interest disclosure

Our Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator will assess if your disclosure complies with the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012.

They may also talk with you about what welfare support we can offer or if we need to appoint a welfare manager. We can also offer to witness an investigation.

If your disclosure complies with the Act, we’ll notify the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) about it within 28 days.

We’ll also tell you we’ve notified IBAC.

It’s an offence for you to inform anyone that we notified IBAC about your disclosure.

If we don’t believe your disclosure complies with the Act

We’ll let you know within 28 days if your disclosure doesn’t comply with the requirements under the Act.

If you want to dispute this, you can use our complaints handling process.

Action we may take immediately

With some disclosures, we may need to report it to Victoria Police to investigate.

We also may need to do something based on what you disclose, such as take action against the person you’ve made a disclosure about.

What a welfare manager does

A welfare manager:

  • talks to the discloser or their witness about what welfare and protections they need in addition to what they get under the Act
  • helps foster a supportive work environment for the discloser, if the discloser or witness works in the public sector
  • gives reasonable advice and support
  • receives and responds to disclosures of detrimental action
  • keeps the discloser or witness up to date with the process
  • manages the discloser or witness’ expectations about potential outcomes and the support they’ll be able to offer
  • protects the discloser or witness’ identity

How we decide if we’ll appoint a welfare manager

We’ll only appoint a welfare manager if:

  • a disclosure is, or is going to be investigated
  • there’s risk detrimental action will take place against the people involved
  • we can give support to the people involved and keep them up to date on the progress
  • we have the power to protect the people involved from detrimental action

We may appoint an employee or contractor as a welfare manager.

If you work in the public sector, we’ll also ask you to access the Employee Assistance Program.

After we notify IBAC about your disclosure, they’ll assess if it should be shifted to the next stage of the process.

The next stage of the process is to work out if it the disclosure should now become a public interest complaint.

IBAC may seek more information from you or us to work this out.

If IBAC determines it’s a public interest complaint, they will choose to either:

  • dismiss it
  • investigate it
  • refer it somewhere else