Protected Disclosures Policy and Procedures


Application


All employees of the University 

Purpose


This policy outlines the procedures to be followed in relation to protected disclosures under the terms of the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 (the Act)

Introduction


The purpose of the Act is to promote the public interest:

·       by facilitating the disclosure and investigation of matters of serious wrongdoing in or by an organisation, and

·       by protecting employees who, in accordance with the Act, make disclosures of information about serious wrongdoing in or by an organisation

The Act requires organisations such as the University to have internal procedures for receiving and dealing with information about serious wrongdoing in or by the organisation.

The Act also provides that no civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings can be taken against a person for making a protected disclosure, or for referring one to an appropriate authority. In addition, the Act provides that an employee who suffers retaliatory action by their employer for making a protected disclosure can take personal grievance proceedings under the Employment Relations Act.

It is unlawful under the Human Rights Act to treat whistle-blowers or potential whistle-blowers less favourably than others in the same or similar circumstances.  If a whistle-blower is victimised in this way the legal remedies under the Human Rights Act may be available to them (Ombudsman’s Office Protected Disclosures Guides)

Policy


 

1.    All employees must facilitate the disclosure and investigation of matters of serious wrongdoing in or by the University

2.    All evidence gathered in relation to a protected disclosure must be fully preserved and protected

3.    No employee may take any retaliatory action against a staff member for making a protected disclosure

4.    An employee may disclose information under these procedures if the following criteria are met:

  • the information is about serious wrongdoing in or by the University and the employee believes on reasonable grounds that it is true or likely to be true, and
  • the employee wishes to disclose the information about serious wrongdoing so that it can be investigated and wishes the disclosure to be protected

Note - A disclosure that meets the above criteria and that is made substantially in compliance with these procedures is called a ‘protected disclosure’ under the Protected Disclosures Act 2000

5.    There is no requirement for an employee making a disclosure to refer expressly to this policy or the Act when the disclosure is made

6.    Any employee who wishes to make a protected disclosure may choose to report the matter anonymously through the independent Whistleblower hotline (0800 100 526)

7.    An employee who becomes aware of information about serious wrongdoing may choose to report it to an appropriate  authority if either:

  • reporting to an appropriate authority is justified due to the urgency of the matter or other exceptional circumstances, or
  • the Vice-Chancellor may be involved in the alleged serious wrongdoing, or
  • there has been no action or recommended action on the matter to which the disclosure  relates within 20 working days after the date on which the disclosure  was made

Related procedures


Internal reporting

8.    Where an employee becomes aware of information about serious wrongdoing, but does not report the matter anonymously through the Whistleblower hotline or to an appropriate authority, they must disclose it without delay to any of the following:

  • their manager
  • their manager’s manager
  • any senior manager
  • the Director of HR
  • the Risk Office
  • the Registrar

9.    An employee may also approach any of the above for advice or support in making a protected disclosure

Note – Disclosure will normally be made on a ‘one-up’ basis i.e. to the immediate line manager of the person making the disclosure, or in appropriate circumstances, to their manager’s line manager

10.    If an employee receives, or is approached for advice or support about, a protected disclosure and:

  • they are aware that they may have some involvement in the alleged serious wrongdoing, or
  • they have any relationship or association with an alleged wrongdoer,

they must immediately advise the person to contact either the Whistleblower hotline (0800 100 526) or another person listed in item 8 above

11.    All protected disclosures which are not made through the Whistleblower hotline must be referred on to the Registrar immediately by the manager receiving the disclosure

12.    The employee making or referring the protected disclosure may instead disclose it directly to the Vice-Chancellor if they believe on reasonable grounds that a member of the senior leadership team or a member of Council may be involved in the serious wrongdoing or has a relationship or association with an alleged wrongdoer

Confidentiality

13.    Apart from referring the disclosure to the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor, any recipient of a protected disclosure, or any employee approached for assistance, advice or support in making a protected disclosure, must endeavour not to disclose information that might identify the staff member who made the protected disclosure unless they have their written consent to do so

14.    In addition, the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor or any investigator appointed by the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor may disclose information that might identify the person who made the protected disclosure if they reasonably believe this is essential: 

  • for the effective investigation of the allegations in the protected disclosure, or
  • to prevent serious risk to public health or public safety or the environment, or
  • to comply with the principles of natural justice

Action following disclosure to the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor

15.    After the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor receives a protected disclosure under these procedures, they must give it full consideration and decide with an open mind whether or not the alleged serious wrongdoing should be investigated or whether any further action should be taken

Note – the process of any investigation will depend on the nature of the alleged wrongdoing

16.    A decision not to investigate alleged serious wrongdoing must be recorded in writing and does not prevent the University from taking further action in relation to matters raised in the protected disclosure, as appropriate

17.    The Registrar/Vice-Chancellor may direct another person to make preliminary inquiries or gather evidence on their behalf or perform any other work as necessary to assist the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor in making their decision

18.    The Registrar/Vice-Chancellor must notify the staff member who made the protected disclosure within 20 working days from the date of the disclosure of their decision whether or not the alleged serious wrongdoing is to be investigated

19.    Where suspected fraudulent activity is identified by the Registrar/Vice-Chancellor this must be reported immediately to the University’s Risk Office

20.   If the protected disclosure is investigated, a final report detailing the outcome of the investigation and steps taken must be provided to the Registrar and the Vice-Chancellor, and held as a record by the Risk Office

Note – Further disciplinary or legal action may be taken, as appropriate, in line with the final report

Further disclosure  

21.   An employee may choose to disclose information about serious wrongdoing to a Minister of the Crown or an Ombudsman where (1) they have already made substantially the same disclosure in accordance with these procedures and (2) they believe on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is true or likely to be true, and either:

  • the person or the appropriate authority to whom the disclosure was made has either decided not to investigate the matter or has not made progress with the investigation within a reasonable time, or
  • the person or the appropriate authority to whom the disclosure was made has investigated the matter but has not taken any action in respect of the matter

Definitions


The following definitions apply to this document:

Act refers to the Protected Disclosures Act 2000

Appropriate authority has the meaning given in the Act and includes the head of every public sector organisation, the Police, the Serious Fraud Office and the Ombudsman but does not include Ministers of the Crown or members of Parliament

Corrupt refers to the abuse of entrusted power for private gain (e.g. soliciting or receiving gifts or other gratuities to perform part of an official function, or omit to perform an official duty).

It includes dishonest activity in which a manager, staff member or contractor of the University acts contrary to the interests of the University and abuses their position of trust in order to achieve some personal gain or advantage for him or herself or for another person or entity 

Employee, in relation to an organisation, is defined Section 3 of the Act and includes—

  • a former employee

  • a homeworker within the meaning of section 5 of the Employment Relations Act 2000

  • a person seconded to the organisation

  • an individual who is engaged or contracted under a contract for services to do work for the organisation

  • a person concerned in the management of the organisation (including a person who is a member of the board or governing body of the organisation)

  • a person who works for the organisation as a volunteer without reward or expectation of reward for that work

Fraudulent activity is an intentional and dishonest act involving deception or misrepresentation, to obtain or potentially obtain an advantage for themselves or any other person

It includes the deliberate falsification, concealment, destruction or use of falsified documentation used or intended for use for a normal business purpose of the University or the improper use of information or position whether or not for personal benefit

Information refers to information about serious wrongdoing in or by the University that the employee believes, on reasonable grounds, is true or likely to be true

Natural justice refers to the right to procedural fairness

Protected disclosure means a protected disclosure as defined in the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 

Retaliatory action includes any act that adversely affects the employment, working conditions, or education of the individual, and any threat to do so

Serious wrongdoing is defined in the Act to include any serious wrongdoing of any of the following types:

  • an unlawful, corrupt, or irregular use of public funds or public resources; or
  • an act, omission, or course of conduct that constitutes a serious risk to public health or public safety or the environment; or
  • an act, omission, or course of conduct that constitutes a serious risk to the maintenance of law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences and the right to a fair trial or
  • an act, omission, or course of conduct that constitutes an offence; or
  • an act, omission, or course of conduct by a public official that is oppressive, improperly discriminatory, or grossly negligent, or that constitutes gross mismanagement

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

 

Document management and control


Content manager: General Counsel

Owner: Registrar

Approved by: Vice-Chancellor

Date approved: 16 January 2018          

Review date: 16 January 2021