New laws will protect South Australian public servants who disclose allegations of public sector maladministration, corruption or misconduct, according to Attorney-General Vickie Chapman.
The changes aim to strengthen transparency and accountability in government, protect the identity of informants and allow them to pass on information to the relevant authorities “without fear of reprisal”.
Based on recommendations from the SA Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander’s 2014 review of whistleblower laws, Chapman said the reforms are important and overdue.
“We are now in a position where public sector employees who want to disclose information about public sector maladministration, corruption or misconduct can come forward and speak up, with the full protection of the law,” she said.
The new Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018 will commence on July 1, 2019, replacing the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993.
Protections under the new Act only apply for cases where the disclosure is made to a relevant authority, such as the allocated agency officer who has been trained to receive and take appropriate action on information, as well as the Office for Public Integrity and the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment.
If an informant has not been notified of proposed actions and their outcomes within the required timeframes, they are entitled to disclose the information to the media or a member of parliament with the same level of protection under the Act.
There are also extra protections for those who make an appropriate public interest disclosure. Victimising these people could carry a maximum fine of $20,000 or two years imprisonment.
Chapman urges all public sector employees to familiarise themselves with the new Act.
An online training program will be rolled out across all State Government agencies and information will be made available to members of the public and public sector employees on government websites.