10:27pm Monday 18 November 2019

Better protecting 'whistleblowers' in public sector

CSU's Mr Peter RobertsLead author of the report, Peter Roberts from Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) Australian Graduate School of Policing, said effective whistleblower protection requires effective legislation backed up by real commitment from management at all levels in an organisation.
“Our research highlighted respondents around Australia who reported harassment by managers and colleagues after reporting misconduct, corruption and other wrongdoing in their workplaces. Current legislation and policies only go so far in protecting whistleblowers,” Mr Roberts said.
The final report of the five year project, titled Whistling While They Work: A good practice guide for managing internal reporting of wrongdoing in public sector organisations will be launched by high-profile former chair of the federal Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Professor Allan Fels, in Canberra on Wednesday 12 October.  The launch is being hosted by the Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher and independent MP, Rob Oakeshott.
Mr Roberts underlined the need for a culture of support for whistleblowers. “Organisation leaders must encourage reporting, act on reports where they are verified and protect reporters from adverse consequences,” he said.
 He said that the research used in the preparation of the Guide highlighted many complex issues in the practical management of whistleblowing cases.
“One issue is the large proportion of reports of wrongdoing made informally, usually orally, to an immediate supervisor. Many reports are handled immediately and dealt with satisfactorily as a day-to-day management issue,” Mr Roberts said.
“However, other reports of wrongdoing can become complex and difficult and result in the whistleblower suffering retaliation. The Guide provides practical advice to organisations on how to enhance protection for whistleblowers while maintaining manageable processes to deal with day-to-day issues.”
“We also found that maintaining the confidentiality of reports from whistleblowers was crucial for maintaining the credibility of the reporting process.
“If employees believe that reporting a wrongdoing will immediately spread through the informal gossip grapevine within the organisation, it is unlikely that they will come forward with reports of wrongdoing,” Mr Roberts said.
“The protection of whistleblowers and other internal witnesses to report corruption, misconduct and maladministration is a great unsolved problem of public sector governance. The research team sought to identify more routine strategies for preventing, reducing and addressing reprisals and conflicts that arise from whistleblowing.”
The Guide includes:
  • a checklist for public sector organisations to evaluate the effectiveness of their current administrative response to whistleblowing;
  • practical guidance on how to approach particularly difficult issues that can arise from whistleblowing within organisations;
  • model policies and procedures which can be quickly adapted to suit an organisation’s needs;
  • producing a flowchart of the whistleblowing process; and,
  • recommended administrative structures for dealing with whistleblowing.

The report will launched at 10am on Wednesday 12 October in Committee Room S16 at Parliament House, Canberra.


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Media Officer : Wes Ward
Telephone : 02 6051 9906

Media Note:

Media contacts present at the launch of the Whistling While They Work report include the lead author of the final report, Charles Sturt University’s Mr Peter Roberts on mobile 0412 733 757; project leader Professor AJ Brown from Griffith University on mobile 0414 782 331; and Mr Shaun Rohrlach, Director of Public Affairs with the Commonwealth Omsbudsman on mobile 0408 861 803 or telephone (02) 6276 3710.
The publication, Whistling While They Work: A good practice guide for managing internal reporting of wrongdoing in public sector organisations, is the final report of the research project into whistleblowing in the public sector, funded by the Australian Research Council and 14 industry partners. The project was led by Griffith University and involved four other universities including Charles Sturt University. It has resulted in a number of publications and has influenced the revision of public interest disclosure legislation in Queensland and NSW. The Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory governments have also indicated that they are contemplating revisions to legislation.
A summary of the guide is available above, and the complete guide is here.

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