PID e-News - December 2018 - Issue 37

Public Interest Disclosures e-News

December 2018 | Issue 37


We welcome you to Issue 37 of our PID e-newsletter. We hope you enjoy the issue and find it to be informative.

Feel free to forward this newsletter to interested colleagues who can subscribe on our  website.

PID Unit


PID Practitioner Forum

On 4 December 2018, 33 practitioners attended a forum focusing on the theme Taking a behavioural insights approach to managing reports of wrongdoing. Participants listened to Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman, speak about Policies and procedures are all well and good, but… and to Jane Olsen, Senior Research and Policy Officer speak about Nudging management reactions with behavioural insights.

Practitioners found the insights into psychology, emotions and biases informative and useful. Group work identified biases at play in organisation and strategies to mitigate the risk of biases.

For details on Chris and Jane’s presentations, please view the articles below.

Policies and procedures are all well and good, but…

Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman
Presented at the PID Practitioner Forum on 4 December 2018

One of the recent findings from the Whistling While They Work 2 research project that struck me is that the presence or absence of internal reporting related official policies and procedures - at least as these are reported by organisations - do not in themselves affect outcomes for those who report wrongdoing.


Nudging management reactions with behavioural insights

Jane Olsen, Senior Research and Policy Officer
Presented at the PID Practitioner Forum on 4 December 2018

We wanted to identify the range of biases that can inadvertently or unintentionally lead managers to:

  • take action that is detrimental to a reporter
  • fail to realistically consider the risks to a reporter, or
  • fail to take adequate steps to protect a reporter.

Situations that are out of scope include where:

  • there is a lack of awareness or understanding about the PID Act
  • managers deliberately and consciously take detrimental action.

We were also focused only on the behaviour of managers - looking at the biases that affect reporters could be a project in itself.


Key behavioural principles

Presented at the PID Practitioner Forum on 4 December 2018

We engaged a behavioural economics expert to help us identify behavioural economics principles that can inadvertently or unintentionally lead managers to take action that is detrimental to a reporter, fail to realistically consider the risks to a reporter, or fail to take adequate steps to protect a reporter.


National Investigations Symposium

The biennial National Investigations Symposium, held from 14-15 November at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, was attended by over 570 delegates wanting to increase their investigative knowledge, skills and networks.

Alastair MacGibbon, Head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security, opened the symposium with a keynote address on emerging online threats.

Kate McClymont facilitated a plenary session titled Exploring new ways to better protect whistleblowers and delegates heard from the following panelists:

  • Professor AJ Brown, Professor of Public Policy & Law, Program Leader/Public Integrity & Anti-Corruption, Centre for Government & Public Policy, Griffith University Queensland
  • Dr Wim Vandekerckhove, Reader in Business Ethics at the University of Greenwich, Deputy-Director of the Work & Employment Relations Unit, and editor-in-chief of the journal Philosophy of Management
  • Dr Sandra Lawrence, Senior Research Fellow, Griffith University
  • Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman, NSW Ombudsman
  • Catherine Geenty, Professional Conduct Coordinator, Wollongong City Council
  • Dr Michael Cole, Junior Vice President, Whistleblowers Australia

L-R: Dr Michael Cole, Catherine Geenty, Dr Wim Vandekerckhove, Chris Wheeler, Dr Sandra Lawrence, Prof AJ Brown, Kate McClymont.

The next symposium will be held in 2020 and is a joint initiative of the NSW Ombudsman, NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Institute of Public Administration Australia NSW.

National Integrity Commission Bill 2018

On 29 November 2018 the Senate referred the National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 [Provisions] to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 5 April 2019.

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is 22 January 2019.

The National Integrity Commission Bill 2018 would establish the Australian National Integrity Commission as an independent, broad-based public sector anti-corruption commission for the Commonwealth.

It is proposed the Commission consist of:

a) the National Integrity Commissioner
b) the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner
c) the Whistleblower Protection Commissioner
d) Assistant National Integrity Commissioners
e) Assistant Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioners.

The National Integrity Commissioner would have functions relating to promoting and improving the integrity and accountability of Commonwealth public administration; and preventing, investigating, exposing and addressing corruption issues involving or affecting Commonwealth public administration.

Whistling While They Work 2 Research

We contributed to the latest report of the Whistling While They Work 2 research project, Whistleblowing: New rules, new policies, new vision. It was released as part of an inaugural Whistleblowing Symposium held on 16 November. The report presents the initial results from the Integrity@WERQ employee survey phase of the project, drawing on the experiences of 17,778 individuals across 46 organisations in Australia and New Zealand. This is thought to be the largest dataset to have been collected for the specific purpose of understanding whistleblowing in organisations, and the first to be conducted across the public and private sectors, using the same methodology, at the same time.

Our office’s focus was on using the survey data to examine the value of risk assessment and proactive management, as well as to identify those reports that have a higher risk of poor outcomes. We found:

  • Risk assessment is far less frequent than suggested by many organisations’ claims. Less than 10% of reporters indicated that any risk assessment took place, either when they first reported or later when conflicts or problems arose.
  • When no risk assessment was conducted, steps were taken to proactively manage problems in only 5.5% of reporter cases and 18.4% of managed cases (ie from the perspective of managers and governance professionals who dealt with these matters), but this rose to 49.3% of reporter cases and 78% of managed cases where risks were assessed as soon as the report was made.
  • When organisations assess risk early, reporters perceive better treatment from both managers and colleagues, and face fewer repercussions - on average, half as much.
  • Risk factors for higher reporter repercussions and management mistreatment include:
    • Greater seniority of the alleged wrongdoer(s)
    • Extent of confidentiality - the more people who knew who raised the concern
    • Type of wrongdoing - that is, a mix of public interest-type wrongdoing and personal or workplace grievances, as opposed to purely public interest types
    • Wrongdoing perceived as more serious
    • More people involved in the alleged wrongdoing (‘extent of wrongdoing’).

Other key findings from the research include that:

  • There is a surprising similarity in the basic nature and dynamics of whistleblowing between public and private sector respondents. There were few substantial differences. Reporting rates in the public sector organisations were only slightly higher than in the private sector (74% vs 69%), neither sector used external reporting paths to a great degree, and both sectors only used a mixture of reporting paths when there was a mixture of wrongdoing types.
  • There is a broad consensus in both the private and public sectors that reporting suspected wrongdoing is vital to the ongoing success of organisations, with fundamental reforms - from managerial changes to new training and other procedures - arising from employee reports in 58.2% of cases.
  • Reporters responded that they were treated badly by their management or colleagues in 42% of cases. Public sector whistleblowers were mistreated in almost exactly the same proportions as recorded a decade ago by the first WWTW project. Reporters experienced negative repercussions (including stress and reduced work performance) in up to 81% of cases.
  • Recognising ‘mixed’ public interest and grievance wrongdoing types, and the significance of ‘collateral’ or informal detrimental effects (not just reprisals) seems key to achieving better reporter outcomes.
  • The presence or absence of particular types of official policies and procedures - at least as these are reported by organisations - do not in themselves affect whistleblower outcomes. There seems to be no clear, direct relationship between the official policies that organisations claim to have, and the organisational support that individuals who report wrongdoing actually experience.

Book your PID Management Training for 2019

We offer in-house training sessions on public interest disclosures for public authorities, as well as open workshops at various locations.

Our public interest disclosures half day training provides an overview of an organisation’s obligations under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. It explains the PID system as well as the responsibilities of nominated disclosure officers, the disclosures coordinator and managers.

This training is provided at no cost to groups of 10 or more.

Our training sessions help to:

  • promote awareness of the importance of public interest disclosures
  • promote a positive reporting environment
  • comply with the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994
  • manage public interest disclosures effectively

You can arrange PID training with our helpful Community Education and Training team here.

Do you want to promote the whole of government Commitments to effective complaint handling?

Help improve the standard of complaint handling across the NSW public sector  plan to adopt and implement the six Commitments to effective complaint handling in 2019. Resources available on our website.

Your feedback and suggestions for future issues are welcome.
Email or call 02 9286 1000.

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