PID responsibilities for public authorities
The PID Act applies to all public authorities in NSW – including government departments and agencies, state-owned corporations, local government councils, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, and public schools, public universities and public hospitals.
The Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (PID Act) sets in place a system for public officials to report serious wrongdoing in a way that minimises the risk of reprisal.
All public authorities are required to have a policy that explains how they will receive, assess and handle public interest disclosures (PIDs) under the PID Act.
For step-by-step guidance on handling a PID, see How to handle PIDs.
To learn more about the new Public Interest Disclosures Act 2022, see New PID Act 2022.
The head of a public authority has overall responsibility for PIDs in their organisation. Heads of public authorities include:
- state government heads of agencies, departmental secretaries and chief executive officers
- local government general managers.
The head of a public authority is referred to as the principal officer in the PID Act.
Responsibilities under the PID Act
Under the PID Act, principal officers are responsible for ensuring:
- their agency has an internal reporting policy
- their staff are aware of the policy and the protections of the PID Act
- their agency complies with the policy and its obligations under the PID Act
- at least one staff member is responsible for receiving PIDs in their agency – for example, a PID coordinator and/or disclosure officer(s).
Principal officers also have obligations under work health and safety legislation, the common law duty of care towards all employees, and obligations to comply with principles of good conduct and administrative practice. See Other obligations and responsibilities for principal officers.
All public authorities must have an internal reporting policy – sometimes called a PID policy – that explains how disclosures of wrongdoing can be made and how they will be assessed and handled.
Internal reporting policies should explain how reports of wrongdoing made by staff are assessed to determine whether they are PIDs, and how PIDs are investigated and managed. They also should contain information about reporting pathway options, including how to report wrongdoing internally and how to report externally.
All staff should know where to locate their agency’s internal reporting policy. Ideally, this policy should be located on both your agency’s website and intranet.
For more information about managing PIDs – including who can make and receive a PID and how to asses whether a report is a PID – see How to handle PIDs.
Internal reporting policy templates
These templates can be branded and/or amended to suit the needs of your agency:
- Model internal reporting policy local government July 2020
- Model internal reporting policy state government July 2020
- Model internal reporting policy Local Aboriginal Land Councils March 2020
- Internal Reporting Form
Help to develop and evaluate your PID policy
For guidance on developing and evaluating your PID policy, processes and practices, see:
- Guideline A1- Management commitment
- Guideline A2 - Internal reporting policy and procedures
- Guideline A4 - Evaluation of policy
- Guideline E2 - Roles and responsibilities
For guidance on PID training and awareness for staff, see Guideline A3 Awareness and training.
Confidentiality and reprisals
The agency must keep the identity of reporters and anyone who is the subject of a report confidential, where practical and appropriate.
The agency must establish appropriate systems and strategies to minimise any risk of detrimental action substantially in reprisal for a report being made.
For more information, see Protections when making a PID and PIDs and the Government Information (Public Access) Act.
Principal officers must ensure all reports of wrongdoing are dealt with appropriately and staff involved are supported. For more information, see Supporting staff involved in PIDs.
Data and reporting
The agency must collect data about PIDs it has received – see Report PID data.
Other complaints pathways
People may not always use the right process when making a PID – for example, staff might rely on the process outlined in their agency's employee grievance policy to report wrongdoing.
Agencies should make sure that staff who receive complaints or grievances are trained to identify possible PIDs, so they can be properly directed, assessed and responded to. If a report is made to someone who is not a nominated disclosure officer in the agency, the reporter must be advised and supported to remake the disclosure to someone who is able to receive PIDs. This is to ensure that the reporter can receive the protections of the PID Act, where relevant.
For more information, see Who can receive a PID.
Other obligations and responsibilities for principal officers
As well as those under the PID Act, principal officers have additional obligations and responsibilities in relation to reports of wrongdoing.
Local government principal officers
Contracts of employment (general managers and senior staff)
Local council general managers and senior staff are required through standard contracts of employment to make sure staff are aware of the council's PID procedures and of the protection provided by the PID Act.
General managers are also required to make sure the council's reporting systems operate satisfactorily – including for PIDs.
Model code of conduct for local councils in NSW
Councils are required under the Local Government Act 1993 to adopt a code of conduct that incorporates the provisions of the model code. The model code sets out the minimum requirements of conduct for council officials.
In addition to stating the purpose and aims of the PID Act, the model code also states that, when dealing with a complaint that is or could be a PID, officers must comply with the confidentiality provisions of the PID Act.
State government principal officers
Government Sector Employment Act 2013
Section 69(2) of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 states ‘the head of a government sector agency is responsible for dealing with any misconduct by employees of the agency (or any conviction for a serious offence by any such employee) in accordance with this section’.
Under section 69(1), misconduct extends to:
- taking any detrimental action (within the meaning of the PID Act) against a person that is substantially in reprisal for the person making a public interest disclosure within the meaning of that Act, and
- taking any action against another employee of a government sector agency that is substantially in reprisal for a disclosure made by that employee of the alleged misconduct of the employee taking that action.
Code of conduct and ethics for public sector executives
Under the Code of Ethics and Conduct for NSW Government Sector Employees, executives have special responsibilities for demonstrating ethical behaviour because of their positions of authority, and high levels of accountability for decision-making and leadership. Implementing the provisions of the PID Act is one part of this commitment.
Local government principal officers and state government principal officers
Work health and safety and duty of care
Employers are required under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure that staff, including staff that report wrongdoing, have a safe and healthy working environment – for example, free from harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation.
Under common law, employers have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for their staff and to take reasonable steps to ensure that their staff do not become ill or injured – for example, by preventing reprisals against a staff member who has made a PID.
Circular to Councils 11-13 and Premier’s Memorandum M2011-12
Government memoranda have further strengthened the protection for public officials who make PIDs.
All local government councils and state government authorities need to ensure that they:
- are aware of the recent changes to the PID Act and make sure councillors and staff throughout the organisation are aware
- operate in accordance with the strengthened provisions that applied from 1 July 2011
- adopt a policy for receiving, assessing and dealing with PIDs.
The NSW Ombudsman provides advice and assistance with handling PIDs and understanding the PID Act. Contact our Public Interest Disclosure Unit on 02 9286 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org