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Whistleblowing (Reporting Corruption and Other Wrongdoing) Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This Policy establishes a framework for reporting and managing reports of wrongdoing including corruption.

(2) The University has an unequivocal commitment to ensuring that all reports of alleged wrongdoing are identified, investigated and managed appropriately and that staff and students who report wrongdoing are supported and protected.

(3) Where a report is made about behaviour that falls outside the definition of wrongdoing in this Policy, it will be referred for assessment under another process, such as the Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy.

(4) This Policy is to be read in conjunction with other policies and processes, as set out under the "Associated Information" tab on the University's policy document development system ("Policy DDS").

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Section 2 - Application

(5) This Policy applies to all public officials of the University and University controlled entities.

(6) University controlled entities are treated as authorities for the purposes of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 and are therefore subject to the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994.

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Section 3 - Definitions

(7) The following definitions apply for the purposes of this Policy:

  1. “Act” means the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW);
  2. “corrupt conduct” means the dishonest or partial exercise of official functions by a public official, including for example:
    1. the improper use of knowledge, power or position for personal gain or the advantage of others;
    2. acting dishonestly or intentionally unfairly, or breaching public trust;
    3. a member of the public influencing or trying to influence a public official to use their position in a way that is dishonest, biased or breaches public trust;
    4. giving or accepting bribes or other incentives for a favourable decision or outcome.
  3. “detrimental action” means action that causes, compromises or involves any of the following in relation to a person who reports serious wrongdoing:
    1. injury, damage or loss;
    2. intimidation or harassment;
    3. discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to employment;
    4. dismissal from, or prejudice in, employment; or
    5. disciplinary proceedings;
  4. “disclosure” means any report of actual or suspected wrongdoing within the University, and includes a public interest disclosure;
  5. “Disclosure Officer” means any person listed in Section 2 of the procedures authorised by the University to receive public interest disclosures;
  6. “Disclosure Coordinator” means any person listed in Section 2 of the procedures authorised by the University to accept public interest disclosures;
  7. “GIPA Act contravention” means a failure to properly fulfil functions under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) such as acting improperly or making decisions contrary to that Act. This could include:
    1. destroying, concealing or altering records to prevent them being released;
    2. knowingly making decisions that are contrary to the legislation;
    3. directing another person to make a decision that is contrary to the legislation;
  8. “investigating authority” means any one or more of the following investigating authorities recognised under the Act:
    1. NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption;
    2. NSW Ombudsman;
    3. NSW Auditor General
    4. NSW Information and Privacy Commission;
  9. “maladministration” means conduct that involves action or inaction of a serious nature that is contrary to law, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory, or based wholly or partly on improper motives and includes, for example:
    1. making a decision and/or taking action that is unlawful;
    2. refusing to approve any form of application for reasons that are not related to the merits of it or the rights of the applicant;
  10. “officer” means a person who holds office with the University or one of its controlled entities, but is not an employee. It includes members of the Board of Trustees and its committees, directors and other office holders of a University controlled entity;
  11. “public interest disclosure” means a public interest disclosure that satisfies the criteria in Part 2 of the Act;
  12. “public official” has the meaning given to it in section 4A of the Act, and in the case of the University or a University controlled entity means:
    1. a staff member;
    2. an individual who exercises functions or acts in an official capacity for the University or that controlled entity (including an officer) and whose conduct and activities can be investigated by an investigating authority;
    3. contractors engaged to provide services to or on behalf of the University or a University controlled entity (including officers or employees of those contractors);
  13. “report” means the initial information and/or circumstances a public official draws to the attention of a disclosures officer for consideration as a public interest disclosure;
  14. “serious and substantial waste” means the uneconomical, inefficient use of resources that could result in losing or wasting University money and could include:
    1. failure to follow policies (such as the Procurement Policy or Commercial Activities Guidelines); or
    2. failure to implement appropriate systems of reporting and control;
  15. “staff member” means a person employed as an academic or professional member of staff (including on a casual basis) by the University or one of its controlled entities, and includes persons who hold clinical, adjunct, visiting, honorary, conjoint or other forms of appointment or employment;
  16. “student” means a person who is currently admitted to a program of study at the University or a University controlled entity, regardless of whether he or she is currently enrolled;
  17. “wrongdoing” includes any one or more of corrupt conduct, maladministration, serious and substantial waste or Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 contravention. 
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Section 4 - Policy Statement

(8) As a public institution, the University is committed to undertaking its activities with the highest standards of honest and ethical behaviour. This is reflected in the University's values, which include:

  1. relevance and responsibility; and
  2. ethics and accountability.

(9) The conduct of officers and staff members is critical to these values. The University strongly encourages early reporting of suspected wrongdoing because this helps to promote integrity, accountability and good management.

(10) The University is committed to providing support and protecting the identity of those who report wrongdoing by completing a risk assessment to identify potential risks ensuring these are managed in an appropriate way.

(11) The University will treat all reports of wrongdoing as confidential, and will not disclose information that might identify or tend to identify the person making the report unless:

  1. he or she first gives written consent;
  2. it is generally known that the person has made the report by having voluntarily identified themselves (other than by making the report itself) as the person who made it;
  3. it is essential, taking into account the requirements of procedural fairness, that the identity of the person who made the report be revealed to a person about whom the substance of the report relates;
  4. the Disclosure Coordinator considers that disclosure of the identifying information is necessary to investigate the matter effectively, or it is otherwise in the public interest to do so;
  5. the University is required to disclose it in order to comply with the law, or an order made by a court or a tribunal.

(12) The University will meet its obligations for transparency, by self-reporting wrongdoing in accordance with its obligations under the Act.

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Section 5 - Who can Report Wrongdoing and When is it a Public Interest Disclosure?

Who can Report?

(13) Anyone (including students and members of the public) can report suspected wrongdoing.

(14) The University will accept and act on anonymous reports to the extent possible. However, it is preferable if the reporting individual identifies themselves, as this allows the University to ensure they are supported and risks of reprisals are identified.

When is a Report a Public Interest Disclosure?

(15) To qualify as a public interest disclosure, and attract protection under the Act, the report must be made by someone who is, at the time the report is made, a public official.

(16) A report of wrongdoing cannot be based on a mere allegation unsupported by any facts, circumstances or evidence. While the individual making the report does not have to prove that the alleged wrongdoing occurred, there must be some information to support that allegation, for instance, direct observation of a specific instance of wrongdoing and/or documentary evidence or knowledge thereof.

(17) In addition, to qualify as a public interest disclosure, a report of alleged wrongdoing must meet the following criteria:

  1. the person who reports alleged wrongdoing must hold an honest belief and on reasonable grounds, that the report shows or tends to show serious wrongdoing;
  2. the report must not be made solely or substantially with the motive of avoiding dismissal or other disciplinary action;
  3. the report must not principally involve questioning the merits of University policy; and
  4. the report cannot relate to a matter where there is a legal duty to report it under another law, for example, mandatory reporting of children at risk of harm under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW).

(18) The substance of a report will determine whether or not it is accepted as a public interest disclosure. The individual making the report does not have to characterise the matter as a public interest disclosure, or have specifically sought protection, for the report to be accepted under this Policy.

When is a Report not a Public Interest Disclosure?

(19) Not all reports of suspected wrongdoing qualify as public interest disclosures for the purposes of the Act. For instance, reports by students or members of the public do not qualify as public interest disclosures because those persons are not “public officials” under the Act. However, the University will, to the extent that it can reasonably do so:

  1. follow the same procedures for investigating reports of wrongdoing in accordance with any procedures under this Policy;
  2. undertake a risk assessment and put in place appropriate management strategies to protect and support students against reprisals.

(20) The Corporations Act 2001 may also provide further whistleblowing protections for officers and employees of University controlled entities.

(21) The University cannot provide any protection or support to members of the public against reprisals because of its limited jurisdiction. However, it will cooperate with inquiries made by the police or an investigating authority.

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Section 6 - Responsibilities

(22) The University will:

  1. undertake activities to promote awareness about fraud, corruption, maladministration and other wrongdoing;
  2. implement and maintain appropriate internal systems of control and reporting to minimise risks of fraud and corruption and improve detection methods;
  3. through its Disclosure Coordinator, decide whether individual reports of wrongdoing will be accepted under this Policy, or referred to another process for investigation, including an external investigative authority such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption;
  4. comply with any statutory obligations it has to report alleged wrongdoing;
  5. undertake a thorough risk analysis to identify risks that may impact on the person making the report, any other staff members, or the operations of the University and put appropriate protection mechanisms in place; and
  6. take prompt action to address any reports of reprisals in relation to a report made and/or accepted under this Policy.

(23) All officers and staff members of the University and University controlled entities are expected to:

  1. report known or suspected wrongdoing within the University or a controlled entity;
  2. actively assist with any investigation into that report;
  3. maintain strict confidentiality throughout the whole process;
  4. protect the identity of the person who makes the report and provide support where practical and appropriate.

(24) Officers and staff members must not:

  1. disclose the identity of a person who has made a report without first obtaining their permission, unless required by law or to properly carry out a function under this Policy;
  2. speculate over or discuss the possible identity of a person who makes a report, in regard to any report made under this Policy;
  3. victimise, harass or take any form of detrimental action against a person who makes, or who is suspected to have made, a report;
  4. make any report of alleged wrongdoing that is false, misleading or motivated by malice.

(25) Supervisors are required to:

  1. cultivate a workplace culture that does not tolerate wrongdoing, encourages reports of wrongdoing, and takes those reports seriously;
  2. ensure staff under their supervision are familiar with this Policy and implement local strategies, in consultation with the Disclosure Coordinator, to encourage reporting and minimise reprisals or workplace conflict when a disclosure is made;
  3. support and assist staff members who report wrongdoing; and
  4. notify the Disclosure Coordinator or the relevant authorised Disclosure Officer if they know or suspect a staff member is the subject of any reprisal or other detriment following a disclosure. This type of action will be investigated internally under the relevant misconduct/serious misconduct provision at the time. It may also constitute a criminal offence under section 20 of the Act.

(26) Any person who makes a report of suspected wrongdoing is required to:

  1. have an honest belief that the report they make is true;
  2. maintain confidentiality and not discuss the report with anyone other than those involved in managing and investigating the report;
  3. clearly identify the issues of concern and provide all information and supporting evidence available to them at the time of making their report, or soon after;
  4. comply with any arrangements put in place by the University to protect them and/or minimise the risk of reprisals; and
  5. treat all those involved in managing the report with courtesy and respect.
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Section 7 - Procedures

(27) The Vice-Chancellor and President may establish procedures for the implementation of this Policy.

(28) The procedures for making a report of wrongdoing under this Policy are set out in the document called "Whistleblowing (Reporting Corruption and Other Wrongdoing) Procedures, published on the University's Policy DDS.

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Section 8 - Guidelines

(29) For more information about making a disclosure (including a public interest disclosure), please visit the University's Whistleblowing web page.

(30) Information (including downloadable fact sheets) is also available from the following investigation authorities:

  1. Independent Commission Against Corruption;
  2. NSW Ombudsman;
  3. NSW Auditor-General;
  4. NSW Information and Privacy Commission.