An audit of whistleblowing at six NSW councils by the Ombudsman has found there may be cultural barriers to reporting serious wrongdoing in local government.

The report found interrelated risks in the following key areas:

  • Cultural barriers to reporting, including
  • Staff awareness of PIDs
  • PID awareness and training activities
  • Training of people with PID responsibilities
  • How easy it is for staff to access nominated officers (who can receive PIDs)
  • How easy it is for staff to contact nominated officers
  • Whether staff have access to information about PIDs
  • Identification of PIDs
  • Location and content of PID policies
  • Providing guidance to staff about making PIDs
  • Whether people have PID responsibilities set out in their role descriptions

Your Call’s CEO, Lauren Witherdin, said these risks are not unique to the local government sector.

Recent research shows most organisations recognise the need to raise awareness of the whistleblowing program in order for it to be effective. This requires a broad approach including educating employees and leaders and creating psychologically safe workplace culture, where employees know they will be listened to without fear of reprisals.

Key recommendations

The report outlines 10 recommendations in response to the risks it identifies, designed to help local councils both comply with the regulations and build a speak up culture. These recommendations are explained in full in the report but summarised here:

  1. Conduct a staff survey to assess the reporting culture within the council
  2. Develop a tailored program of training and awareness activities
  3. Develop a rolling training program for staff with PID responsibilities
  4. Increase the number of nominated disclosure officers; ensure there is at least one nominated disclosure officer in Human Resources or equivalent
  5. Have a range of accessible reporting mechanisms and provide nominated officer contact details
  6. Consolidate PID information into the PID policy
  7. Ensure the PID policy is accessible
  8. Update PID policies
  9. Provide internal guidance documents
  10. Include PID responsibilities in role descriptions

Source: Summary of Public Interest Disclosure Audits of 6 Local Councils – 21 November 2022

 

New PID Act 2022 for NSW

The  PID Act 2022 establishes a new framework for protecting public officials who make PIDs, and for making and dealing with PIDs in New South Wales. On commencement, it will replace the PID Act 1994.

In addition, the Attorney General has announced he will introduce a bill in the Federal Parliament to amend the Public Interest Disclosure Act in late November 2022.

All organisations subject to either the NSW or Federal PID Act are advised to review their policies and procedures to ensure they remain compliant.

Need help?

Talk to us about how we can help your organisation meet your PID requirements, including:

  • Review policies and procedures to ensure not only compliance with PID Act but also to establish best practice
  • Educate boards, disclosure officers and employees about their protections, duties and responsibilities under the PID Act
  • How to create listen up, speak up culture where everyone feels safe to speak up when they see or experience wrongdoing.

 

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