Lack of whistleblower complaints prompt local government audit

Public sector whistleblowers have made nearly 1,000 reports to investigative agencies in New South Wales, according to the state ombudsman, but some fear that public authorities are underreporting internal disclosures of public interest.

Paul Miller

A report released this week shows that 964 whistleblower complaints were filed with investigative bodies, including the Local Government Office, ICAC, Ombudsman and NSW Audit Office in fiscal year 2020-21.

In the meantime, public authorities have received 345 internal reports from their own staff, 80 percent of which concerned allegations of corrupt conduct, according to the annual report of the Public Interest Disclosure Oversight Act.

This number was down from 422 in 2018-19.

NSW Ombudsman Paul Miller expressed concern that public authorities were not properly recording internal disclosures, which meant the extent of leaked PIDs was likely underreported .

Each NSW public authority has a legal obligation to provide the NSW Ombudsman with a semi-annual report on the number of PIDs they receive, the type of wrongdoing reported, and the outreach activities they have undertaken during the process. period.

Boards are less likely to report

The report says that as a sector, boards are less likely to report having received an IRS than similarly sized local health departments, authorities, universities and districts.

Data between 2018-2020 shows that 66% of councils reported not having received IRS during this period, which led to an audit of six local governments in metropolitan, regional and metropolitan areas to identify problems of culture, systems or practices to explain this.

The audit looked at a series of questions including whether staff were comfortable raising issues internally and whether creating a PID was easy and accessible.

The Ombudsman will present a report on the audit to Parliament in 2022.

The report underscored the importance of whistleblowing as a means of exposing corruption, Miller said.

“This year has been marked by significant achievements,” he said.

“The new Public Interest Disclosure Bill (PID Bill) was introduced to Parliament in October. We hope it will better support a culture where public officials are encouraged to report serious wrongdoing with the confidence that they will be protected. ”

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