NSW watchdogs receive hundreds of disclosures but have concerns of under-reporting

By Jackson Graham

December 14, 2021

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NSW’s watchdog agencies received almost 1000 public interest disclosures in 2020-21. (alfa27/Adobe)

NSW’s watchdog agencies received almost 1000 public interest disclosures in the 2020-21 financial year – mostly from heads of public sector organisations – but there are concerns some workplaces aren’t making disclosures. 

As the state’s public sector prepares for a new Public Interest Disclosures Act, after a bill was introduced into parliament in October, NSW ombud Paul Miller is flagging some public organisations aren’t complying with obligations under the current Act. 

The NSW ombud, ICAC and the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission received 964 public interest disclosures last financial year, slightly more than the 949 received in 2019-20. 

Most of the disclosures came to ICAC from the public sector agency heads, who are required by law to report evidence of possible corrupt conduct. 

Eighty per cent of public interest disclosures related to allegations of corruption – similar to previous years – however, 2020-21 saw slightly more disclosures related to maladministration. 

A new report by NSW ombud Paul Miller flags concerns that not all public authorities are complying with their obligations under the current Act to report information about public interest disclosures to his office. 

“The accuracy of the data we report relies on all public authorities properly identifying and recording internal disclosures of wrongdoing as PIDs,” Miller said.

“Where this is not the case, the number of PIDs being made in NSW is likely to be under-reported.” 

Miller said he hoped the new Act would improve NSW’s public service culture to assure officials they will be protected in reporting serious wrongdoing. 

The new bill removes barriers to making disclosures, including allowing officials to make a public interest disclosure to their own manager as well as the head of their agency or nominated disclosure officers. 

It also gives more protection to those involved in disclosing information, including witnesses and investigators. 

Agencies will have greater obligations to have whistleblowing policies and train staff while official watchdogs will receive more comprehensive reporting.


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