Statement on Integrity

Policy Corporate Governance Statement on Integrity

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Intent

The University aspires to maintaining the highest level of ethical standards.  Integrity is identified as one of the pillars of sound ethical behaviour.  This policy sets out our approach to promoting integrity through a framework which:

  1. contributes to the maintenance of a high level of ethical standards within the University,

  2. clearly outlines the University’s attitude of zero tolerance to fraud and corruption and actively discourages such activity, and

  3. outlines a staff member’s and the University’s rights and responsibilities in relation to dealing with alleged breaches of such standards.

Scope

All employees, members of Council and students of the University and Third Parties.

Definitions

Corruption is defined as dishonest activity in which a director, executive, manager, employee or contractor of an entity acts contrary to the interests of the entity and abuses his/her position of trust in order to achieve some personal gain or advantage for him or herself or for another person or entity

Definition is taken from the Australian Standard AS 8001-2008 Corporate Governance – Fraud and Corruption Control..

Discloser is defined as any person who makes a Public Interest Disclosure, including a Public Officer.

Ethical standards are defined as standards established in accordance with the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld) and incorporated into codes of conduct and policy statements which provide guidance on appropriate behaviour and include, but are not limited to, the following ethical principles:

  • respect for the law and the system of government;

  • respect for persons;

  • integrity, including

    • avoiding misuse of power or position,

    • avoiding conflicts of interest,

    • avoiding fraud, corruption or Maladministration;

  • diligence; and

  • economy and efficiency.

Fraud is defined as dishonest activity causing actual or potential financial loss to any person or entity including theft of moneys or other property by employees or persons external to the entity and where deception is used at the time, immediately before or immediately following the activity. The theft of property belonging to an entity by a person or persons internal to the entity but where deception is not used is also considered fraud1.  It includes acts such as (but is not limited to):

  • theft of money, property or information,

  • the intentional misuse of University corporate credit cards,

  • causing a loss, or avoiding and/or creating a liability,

  • the intentional falsification, concealment, destruction or use of falsified documentation, used or intended for a normal business purpose, or the improper use of information or position, and

  • making false statements or representations, evasion, manipulation of information, criminal deception and abuse of property or time.

For the purposes of this Statement, reference to fraud and corruption is taken to include Maladministration and Official Misconduct.

Integrity: adherence to a strict moral or ethical code or standards or set of values.

Maladministration is defined as an administrative action that is unlawful, arbitrary, unjust, oppressive, improperly discriminatory or taken for an improper purpose and which substantially and adversely affects someone’s interests.

Officer of the University: includes all employees of the University and members of the University’s governing body, Council, its committees and sub-committees.

Official Misconduct is defined as the performance of a dishonest (not impartial) act, breach of trust or misuse of information or material acquired, which if proven could constitute a criminal offence or conduct that could provide reasonable grounds for termination of employment.

Public Interest Disclosure:  is any information or help given in an appropriate and confidential manner, by any person or Public Officer, about alleged unlawful, negligent or improper conduct under the control of the University, or perceived danger to public health or safety or the environment caused by the University. .

Public Officer: an employee or officer of the University.

Risk management: the process of identification, analysis, and either acceptance or mitigation of the likelihood of events that could have a significantly adverse impact on the achievement of the University’s objectives.

Third parties: for the purposes of this statement third parties include adjunct staff, contractors and consultants of the University and its controlled entities.

University Secretary: the University officer holding the position of Director, Governance Services and University Secretary, and who performs the role of Secretary to Council.

Policy and Procedures

Contents

A. The University's Ethical Standards

1. Setting Ethical Standards

2. Promulgating Ethical Standards

3. Monitoring Achievement

4. Review of Compliance with Ethical Standards

5. Reporting and Handling Alleged Breaches

6. Clarification of ethical standards

7. Refreshing the ethical standards

B. Fraud and Corruption Prevention

1. Principles

2. Roles and Responsibilities for Fraud and Corruption Prevention

3. Fraud and Corruption Prevention Process

C. Public Interest Discloser Protection

1. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010

2. Public Interest Disclosures

3. Making a Public Interest Disclosure and Conducting an Initial Assessment

4. Acting in Good Faith

5. Where a Public Interest Disclosure is Made to a Supervisor

6. Assessment and Investigation

7. Report

8. Obligations to Keep Discloser Informed

9. Action

10. Confidentiality

11. Support for Officers Against Whom a Disclosure is Made

12. Record Keeping and Reporting

13. Reprisals

D. Further Information

A. The University's Ethical Standards

1. Setting Ethical Standards

As expressed in the University’s Statement of Strategic Intent, the University will develop and maintain a framework of exemplary standards of integrity in all respects of our affairs: academic, financial, scientific, legal, administrative, social, and in our treatment of students and staff.

An Integrity Framework has been developed which takes into account all relevant internal and external factors including community, staff and student expectations, legislative requirements, industry standards, and variations in expected standards that may exist in other jurisdictions in which the University operates.

The University’s integrity standards will be incorporated into the various published documents and plans of the University including: The University Plan, Code of Conduct, Code of Conduct for the University Council and its Committees, the Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and University policies.

All members of the University Community are encouraged to adopt the highest ethical standards in accordance with this Statement.

2. Promulgating Ethical Standards

Ethical standards will be integrated throughout the University by the inclusion within position descriptions as appropriate, the Performance Management Plan and through day-to-day reinforcement of ethical values by all staff.

Staff in senior positions will lead by example through active participation in, and support for, training activities related to integrity and ethical standards.

Guidance on ethical decision-making will be established for staff with guiding questions and examples within the Code of Conduct.

Ethical standards will be formally disseminated and reinforced through induction processes and regular/ongoing training programs that will include acknowledgement and acceptance of roles and responsibilities in ethics.

To enhance promulgation to the JCU community and key stakeholders, all materials that codify the ethical standards will be publicly accessible.

3. Monitoring Achievement

Responsible officers will monitor ethical activities by function and within their operational area through day-to-day oversight of operational activities and through reviews of ethical performance against strategic and operational plans.

4. Review of Compliance with Ethical Standards

Governance systems, processes and control activities will be maintained to ensure that:

a. statements of policy are complied with; and

b. legislative and statutory requirements are complied with.

Regular reviews will be undertaken, by responsible officers on a risk management basis, to ensure the above systems, processes and controls are achieving their stated aims and remain relevant to the University.

Independent assurance will be provided to management through reviews conducted by:

a. the University’s Audit and Assurance Office, as part of each programmed audit activity and in accordance with any specific ethical conduct review topic included in the work program;

b. external audit agencies such as the Queensland Audit Office; and

c. other regulatory bodies responding to complaints concerning breaches of standards of conduct and integrity such as the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland and the Ombudsman’s Office of Queensland.

5. Reporting and Handling of Alleged Breaches

5.1 Notification of alleged breach of ethical standards

Where a member of staff believes a breach of ethical standards has occurred, they may either report verbally, or preferably report it in writing, to one of the following officers:

  • the employee’s supervisor, manager or higher authority (normally in the first instance for general disclosures);

  • the University Secretary (normally in relation to Public Interest Disclosures); or

  • the Director, Audit and Assurance Office (normally in respect of financial fraud and corruption).

Notifications may be made by persons other than staff of the University.

Notifications may be made anonymously.  However, this is not encouraged as it can make the disclosure more difficult to investigate.

Where the identity of the notifying person is known, the disclosure of the name of that person may be kept confidential where a duty of confidentiality has been established between that person and the University subject to any lawful direction to disclose.

5.2 Requirement to act in good faith

People who report an alleged breach of ethical standards are required to act in good faith.  The University encourages persons contemplating such a report to give due prior consideration to that course to ensure that matters raised have substance, are soundly based and are not of a malicious or vexatious nature.

Giving intentionally false or misleading information may constitute a criminal offence. Actions by staff not in good faith may give rise to disciplinary action for misconduct or serious misconduct under the Union Collective Agreement.  A disclosure which is not made in good faith may also attract civil liability for defamation.

5.3 Referral of notified alleged breach of ethical standards

Where a disclosure relating to an alleged breach of ethical standards has been received from a member of University staff, the receiving officer must, in the first instance follow the prescribed process as set out in Section C below.

Where a disclosure relating to an alleged breach of ethical standards has been received from a person who is not a member of the University staff, then the receiving officer should conduct an initial assessment of the matter or refer it to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.  Where a person receiving the disclosure is a member of Council, the matter is to be referred to the Chancellor.  The Chancellor will arrange for an initial assessment, or refer it to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office

In all cases, the person receiving the disclosure must maintain strict confidence in relation to the matter.

5.4 Investigations of alleged breaches of ethical standards

The initial assessment of an alleged staff member’s breach should normally be undertaken by the staff member’s supervisor, manager or head of division/faculty/area.  As per section 5.1 a breach may also be referred to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office as appropriate.  Where an allegation is referred to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office, an assessment will be undertaken on all matters referred to him/her, in order to determine whether the matters warrant further investigation.  a determination of appropriate action to be taken will be made by those officers in consultation with other appropriate University officers.

Allegations relating to misconduct and serious misconduct by staff will be investigated under the current Enterprise Agreement.

Allegations of breaches of ethical standards by students, which constitute a breach of a relevant student policy, will be dealt with under that policy.

In the absence of other prescribed policies or procedures, any alleged breach of ethical standards will be investigated by the officer receiving the initial assessment of the allegation.  Where further investigation is recommended the matter will be referred to the University Secretary or Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

5.5 Reporting outcomes of investigations

Where an allegation of a breach of ethical standards is formally investigated, a report will be provided to the appropriate officer or committee, and will include details of the alleged breach(es), the outcomes of the investigation and any recommendations for follow-up action, including referral to an external agency, together with any recommendations for amendments to University policies, codes or the Integrity framework itself.

5.6 Record keeping

Receiving officers and investigating officers are required to maintain appropriate records of assessments and investigations undertaken in respect of alleged breaches in accordance with the University’s record keeping policies, irrespective of whether the allegations are subsequently proven or disproven.

6. Clarification of ethical standards

Where a staff member is uncertain about the interpretation or application of an expected ethical standard, either in relation to their own conduct, the conduct of another officer of the University or the prevailing values of the University generally, the staff member is encouraged to refer their uncertainty utilising the same options as provided under clause 5.1.

7. Refreshing the ethical standards

Ethical standards of the University should be refreshed from time to time and should be informed by a re-assessment of relevant internal and external factors, as listed in clause 1, the results of specific and general risk assessments carried out together with any recommendations for changes arising out of investigations undertaken on past allegations of breaches of ethical standards.

B. Fraud and Corruption Prevention Policy and Procedures

1. Policy & Principles

The University has a zero tolerance to fraud and corruption in relation to any of its operations, and will take appropriate action if any instance of fraud or corruption is detected. The University will establish appropriate and effective systems and controls to mitigate the risk of fraud or corruption, within a risk management framework.JCU is committed to maintaining an organisational culture which ensures that effective fraud and corruption prevention is an integral part of all University activities and a core management capability, consistent with the University’s Code of Conduct and relevant legislation and in accordance with the Australian Standard 8001-2008 Fraud and Corruption Control.

The University’s policy on fraud and corruption prevention is based on the following principles:

  • JCU operates in an environment in which ethical conduct is expected, encouraged and supported

  • managers and staff of the University are placed in a position of trust and are required to maintain and enhance public confidence in the integrity of the University and to advance the common good of the University community;

  • through its Management, an effective Internal Audit function, an Audit and Compliance Committee and sound policies and delegations, the University is committed to having in place an effective system of internal controls and procedures for the prevention and detection of corrupt conduct or fraudulent activities.

  • the University will undertake an initial assessment on all matters referred to it, in order to determine whether the matters warrant further investigation. and

  • the University will act in good faith in its investigation of all reported cases of alleged fraud and corruption, and similarly requires people who report an alleged breach of ethical standards to act in good faith.  The University encourages persons contemplating such a report to give due prior consideration to that course to ensure that matters raised have substance, are soundly based and are not of a malicious or vexatious nature.

2. Roles and Responsibilities for Fraud and Corruption Prevention

2.1 Council

Council has oversight responsibility for fraud and corruption prevention.  It approves policy and delegations and through the Audit and Compliance Committee, receives advice on fraud and corruption prevention and risk management issues as required.

2.2 Audit and Compliance Committee

The Audit and Compliance Committee is responsible for the oversight of the Audit and Assurance Office and monitoring the effectiveness of the system of internal controls.

Audit and Compliance Committee reviews and endorses this policy and the following documents:

and reports to Council as required.

2.3 Vice-Chancellor

As the University’s chief executive officer, the Vice-Chancellor is responsible for:

  • maintaining an effective internal control structure, and

  • determining the appropriate course of action for a fraud or corruption incident with regard to communication and formal investigation (including determining the appropriate timing and extent of any communication to the Chancellor and/or Council),

and has a statutory obligation to refer all cases of suspected Official Misconduct to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

2.4 Members of the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Committee

Members of the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Committee are responsible in their organisational area for:

  • the prevention and detection of acts of fraud and corruption,

  • ensuring there are sufficient internal controls that minimise and detect such activities,

  • remaining vigilant to fraudulent and corrupt activity and reporting suspected acts of fraud and corruption to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office,

  • performing initial enquiries where appropriate,

  • promoting staff awareness of the Code of Conduct and University policies and procedures relating to ethical behaviour,

  • educating staff about fraud and corruption prevention, detection and reporting,

  • promoting a positive and appropriate attitude towards compliance with laws, rules and regulations,

  • being aware of common indicators and symptoms of fraud and corruption and responds to those indicators as appropriate, and

  • cooperating with any fraud or corruption investigation and granting access to persons and documentation required.

2.5 Managers of operational areas

Managers are responsible in their operational area for:

  • encouraging and promoting a positive attitude towards compliance with laws, rules and regulations,

  • ensuring that they are aware of indicators of fraudulent and corrupt conduct, and responding appropriately to such indicators, and

  • establishing adequate internal controls to provide for the security and accountability of University resources to prevent or reduce the opportunity for fraudulent and corrupt activities.

2.6 All staff

Staff have a responsibility to:

  • comply with internal control requirements, policies and procedures and delegations,

  • be aware of the signs of acts of fraud and corruption,

  • report suspected acts of fraud and corruption to their supervisor, manager or Head of Division/Faculty/Area, the University Secretary or Director, Audit and Assurance Office, as appropriate, and

  • assist with any enquiries and investigations pertaining to fraud and corruption.

2.7 University Secretary

The University Secretary is responsible for:

  • conducting a Case Management Conference (including the primary officers namely; University Secretary, the Director Audit and Assurance and the Director Human Resources) for allegations of fraud and corruption to undertake an initial assessment and allocate responsibilities and tasks

  • receiving disclosures relating to non-financial fraud and corruption,

  • undertaking a preliminary assessment on all matters referred to him/her from the Case Management Conference, in order to determine whether the matters warrant further investigation.

  • where required, developing an investigation plan and a protection plan for any Discloser,

  • determining if any other action related to the disclosure is required,

  • on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, fulfilling the University’s record-keeping and reporting obligations related to the disclosure, and

  • providing advice to the Vice-Chancellor and senior managers in relation to both the disclosure and to more general issues of fraud and corruption management, as required.

2.8 Director, Audit and Assurance Office

The Director, Audit and Assurance Office is responsible for:

  • receiving disclosures relating to financial fraud and corruption,

  • undertaking  a preliminary assessment on all matters referred to him/her from the Case Management Conference, in order to determine whether the matters warrant further investigation.

  • supporting the Vice-Chancellor and senior managers in carrying out their responsibilities for fraud and corruption prevention and management,

  • the provision of on-going advice and guidance to all levels of management on (a) the implementation of fraud and corruption prevention and management strategies and (b) procedures for responding to allegations of fraud and corruption,

  • the performance of periodic reviews of internal control structures, and

  • the investigation of allegations of financial fraud and corruption and reporting the outcome directly to the Vice-Chancellor and the Audit and Compliance Committee

2.9 Director, Human Resources Management

The Director, Human Resources Management is responsible for:

  • establishing appropriate and effective HR systems and controls to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption,

  • including training on ethics, fraud and corruption prevention and detection, Public Interest Disclosure training and reporting obligations of individual staff members as part of the University’s ongoing staff development program

  • managing misconduct/serious misconduct processes where investigations indicate that further action is warranted under the Enterprise Agreement

2.10 Director, Financial and Business Services

The Director, Financial and Business Services is responsible for:

  • establishing appropriate and effective financial systems (Finance One and Spendvision) and controls to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption,

  • Training and education regarding the appropriate use of University corporate credit cards.

2.11 Director, Commercial Services

The Director, Commercial Services is responsible for:

  • establishing appropriate and effective strategic procurement systems and controls to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption,

2.12 Director, Student and Academic Services

The Director, Student and Academic Services is responsible for:

  • establishing appropriate and effective student administration systems and controls to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption,

2.13 Students

Students have a responsibility to:

  • act in accordance with the Student Conduct Policy and other policies of the University, and

  • report suspected fraudulent or corrupt activity to the relevant Head of School/ Faculty/ Office/ Division/ Hall of Residence or to the University Secretary or to the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

2.14 Third Parties

Third parties have a responsibility to:

  • abide by this statement, and

  • report suspected acts of fraud and corruption to the University Secretary.

3. Fraud and Corruption Prevention Process

3.1 Overall approach

The University’s Fraud and Corruption Prevention process is comprised of the components of the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s ‘Fraud and Corruption Control: Guidelines for Best Practice’.

3.2 Risk Assessment

Identification, assessment and management of the risk of fraud and corruption are to be an integral part of the University’s risk management process, as set out in the Risk Management Policy.

3.3 Internal Controls

The Vice-Chancellor is ultimately responsible for the establishment of a cost-effective internal control structure for the University.  Financial, administrative, information systems and academic internal controls are all essential requirements for fraud and corruption prevention. Individual managers are responsible for daily operations and for maintaining cost-effective internal control structures within their organisational responsibility. Review of the operation of internal controls is the responsibility of the senior management and the Audit and Assurance Office.

3.4 Internal Reporting - by staff

Reporting by staff members plays a crucial role in controlling fraud and corruption.  An internal reporting system, whereby staff are encouraged to report suspected fraud and corruption, is to be in place.

Detailed guidelines regarding reporting and investigation of alleged misconduct can be found in the Alleged Misconduct/Serious Misconduct/Official Misconduct of Staff (Guidelines for Processing) and Alleged Misconduct/Serious Misconduct/Official Misconduct of Staff Flowchart.

However, people who report an alleged breach of ethical standards are required to act in good faith.  The University encourages persons contemplating such a report to give due prior consideration to that course to ensure that matters raised have substance, are soundly based and are not of a malicious or vexatious nature.

Giving intentionally false or misleading information may constitute a criminal offence. Actions by staff not in good faith may give rise to disciplinary action for misconduct or serious misconduct.  Under the Enterprise Agreement, a disclosure which is not made in good faith may also attract civil liability for defamation.

Where a member of staff believes fraud or corruption has occurred, they may either report verbally, or preferably report it in writing, to one of the following officers:

  • the University Secretary (normally in relation to Public Interest Disclosures and non-financial fraud and corruption); or

  • the Director, Audit and Assurance Office (normally in respect of financial fraud and corruption).

Notifications of breaches of ethical standards may be made anonymously.  However, this is not encouraged as it can make the disclosure more difficult to investigate.

Where the identity of the notifying person is known, the disclosure of the name of that person may be kept confidential where a duty of confidentiality has been established between that person and the University subject to any lawful direction to disclose.

A proper record needs to be kept of reports made and how they are addressed.

3.5 Reporting by non-staff officers of the University

The provisions in 3.4 above apply except that the initial report is to be made to the Chancellor or, in his/her absence, the Deputy Chancellor.  Written reports may be submitted through the Secretary to Council (University Secretary).

3.6 External Reporting - by the University

Various legislation sets out the requirements for agencies such as the University to report matters of fraud and corruption to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC), Queensland Police Service and Queensland Audit Office.  It may serve a worthwhile purpose, in some cases, to report also to the Queensland Ombudsman.  The University is to have in place a mechanism for assessing fraud and corruption matters and determining its obligations for reporting them to relevant external agencies.

3.7 Public Interest Disclosures

Clause 2 in section C sets out how and to whom to make a Public Interest Disclosure is made.  It provides protection for individuals making a disclosure and natural justice for those who are the subject of disclosures.

3.8 Investigation

The University provides resources, where necessary, and has procedures in place for the conduct of investigations.

Depending on the type of expertise required, collaboration with such specialist areas as Information Technology & Resources and the Human Resources Office takes place, where necessary.  As CMC liaison officer, on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, the University Secretary is responsible for coordinating any referral of fraud and corruption allegations or matters to the CMC and other external bodies.

3.9 Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct, which applies to all managers and staff of the University, is a reflection of the University’s commitment to create an ethos and environment in which ethical conduct is expected, encouraged, supported and achieved. The Code of Conduct requires that managers and staff act in accordance with 5 fundamental ethical principles, including integrity and respect for the law and the system of governance.  Managers and staff control University resources, have access to University information and make decisions that affect the interests of others. By conducting themselves with the highest standards of honesty, fairness and propriety, staff enhance public confidence in the integrity of the University.

3.10 Staff Education and Awareness

Responsibility for staff education and awareness will be undertaken by the Human Resources Office (for all staff as part of the staff development program) and by the Director, Audit and Assurance Office (for the provision of advice and guidance to managers).

3.11 Client and Community Awareness

To maintain public trust, the community must be confident that the University and its officers behave ethically and honestly.  The University’s engagement program should communicate to the community that it not only provides services of the highest standard, but also its Code of Conduct, policies and procedures and quality assurance mechanisms are such that the University and its officers act ethically and honestly, are good public citizens and are socially and environmentally responsible.

C. Public Interest Discloser Protection

1. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010

The (the Act) commenced on 1 January 2011 and replaced the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1994 (Queensland).  It provides a scheme to protect employees in the public sector who make "Public Interest Disclosures" about unlawful, negligent or improper conduct in the University as a public sector organisation or about danger to public health or safety or the environment.

As a public sector entity established by an Act of the Queensland Parliament, James Cook University is subject to The Act and all University employees are Public Officers under the legislation. The University, therefore, has obligations related to the receipt of Public Interest Disclosures, and to ensure that persons who make such disclosures in good faith are protected from reprisals.

The University Secretary has been appointed the responsible officer for receiving disclosures and acting on them.

2. Public Interest Disclosures

This section applies to Public Interest Disclosures within the meaning of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Any person (including a Public Officer) may make a Public Interest Disclosure about:

  • a criminal offence;

  • serious misconduct (within the meaning of the relevant Enterprise Agreement or University policy);

  • Maladministration - namely, administrative action that is unlawful, arbitrary, unjust, oppressive, improperly discriminatory or taken for an improper purpose that adversely affects anybody's interests in a substantial and specific way;

  • negligent or improper management directly or indirectly resulting, or likely to result, in a substantial waste of any University or other Government funds; or

  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety or the environment.

All forms of fraudulent or corrupt activity or conduct would qualify as a Public Interest Disclosure.

In addition, anybody can make a Public Interest Disclosure about:

  • a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability;

  • the commission of an offence listed in Schedule 2 of the Act where the commission or breach amounts to a substantial or specific danger to the environment; or

  • causing, attempting to cause, or conspiring to cause detriment to another person because, or in the belief that, a person has made, or may make, a Public Interest Disclosure.

A person makes a Public Interest Disclosure if they honestly believe on reasonable grounds that they have information that tends to show conduct or danger that falls within one of the above categories. If the information is about conduct or an event, it may be about conduct or an event that has (or may have) happened, is (or may be) happening or will (or may) happen. The disclosure may be about a person that is unknown.

The Act only protects Public Interest Disclosures that are made to an "appropriate entity". The University is an appropriate entity for conduct concerning the University, a University employee or behaviour that the University has the power to investigate or remedy. Protected Public Interest Disclosures may also be made to an external public sector agency having investigative powers in relation to particular matters (the Crime and Misconduct Commission for example in the case of Official Misconduct) or to a member of the Legislative Assembly who may refer it to an appropriate public sector agency.

The Act does not provide protection against reprisals where a Public Interest Disclosure is made in some other way for example through the media or to a political party.

The University Secretary can provide information and advice about making a Public Interest Disclosure and the protection afforded by law to those who do so. University employees are encouraged to make an informed decision as to whether to make Public Interest Disclosures and, if so, how best to make those disclosures.

3. Making a Public Interest Disclosure and Conducting an Initial Assessment

The University has established the following procedure for officers and employees making a Public Interest Disclosure. To ensure Public Interest Disclosures are recognised as such, and appropriately investigated, it is preferable that a disclosure be made in writing to:

  • the employee’s supervisor, manager or Head of Division/Faculty/Area, as appropriate;

  • the University Secretary; or

  • the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

However, the Act provides that a Public Interest Disclosure may also be made to:

  • the Vice-Chancellor;

  • a member of the University Council;

  • the Crime and Misconduct Commission (in the case of a disclosure regarding Official Misconduct); or

  • a Member of the Legislative Assembly (who may refer it to a relevant public sector entity).

Where the receiving officer has a real or apparent conflict of interest in relation to the disclosure, the officer must not have any involvement with the disclosure.  In such circumstances either the disclosure will be referred to an alternative receiving officer or the receiving officer’s supervisor in accordance with the one-up rule.

Where a disclosure relating to an alleged breach of ethical standards has been received from a member of University staff or other Public Officer, the receiving officer must determine if:

  • the person making the disclosure is able to receive the  protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.  If yes, the disclosure must be referred to the University Secretary immediately for management under the provisions of this policy.  If no, then the receiving officer should conduct an initial assessment of the matter or refer it to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.  Where an initial assessment has not already been undertaken, the University Secretary or Director, Audit and Assurance Office will undertake such an initial assessment on all matters referred to him/her, in order to determine whether the matters warrant further investigation.

  • the disclosure concerns a matter about which a Public Interest Disclosure can be made

  • the disclosure meets the subjective or objective test set out in the Act

  • the disclosure should be referred to another entity. If so the referral must be done in accordance with legislative and administrative requirements.

If a supervisor or other University officer receives a Public Interest Disclosure verbally they should encourage the discloser to put the information in writing. If the discloser does not, the supervisor, or other University officer, must promptly make a written note recording the precise matters raised and this should be referred to the University Secretary or Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

All persons receiving a disclosure are required to maintain confidentiality with respect to the disclosure.  Breaches of confidentiality are a criminal offence.

A disclosure can be made anonymously.  , This is not encouraged as it can make the disclosure more difficult to investigate.  However, the University is committed to act on all anonymous disclosures.

4. Acting in Good Faith

People who make a Public Interest Disclosure are required to act in good faith. Where a person making a disclosure has an honest and reasonable belief about the inappropriate conduct or activity disclosed, and where the disclosure is made in accordance with this policy, that person is protected under the Act from any civil, criminal or administrative action that results from making a Public Interest Disclosure.

The University encourages persons contemplating the making of a Public Interest Disclosure to give due prior consideration to that course to ensure that matters raised have substance and are soundly based and are not of a malicious or vexatious nature.

Giving intentionally false or misleading information in a Public Interest Disclosure, or as part of the investigation into the disclosure, is a criminal offence. Actions by a Public Officer not in good faith may also give rise to disciplinary action for misconduct or serious misconduct under the Enterprise Agreement or action for a breach of a conduct obligation.  A disclosure which is not made in good faith may also attract civil liability for defamation.

5. Where a Public Interest Disclosure is Made to a Supervisor

Where a Public Interest Disclosure is made to a supervisor or other University officer, that officer must communicate the disclosure immediately to the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

Because a Public Interest Disclosure may be made to a staff member's supervisor, it is important that all staff having supervisory responsibilities are made aware of the existence of this legislation through appropriate staff development activities conducted by the Human Resources Management Office.

6. Assessment and Investigation

The assessment of a Public Interest Disclosure and the determination of appropriate action, on a case by case basis, rests with the University Secretary, in consultation with appropriate University officers such as the Director, Audit and Assurance Office, or in the case of serious research misconduct, with the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

If the University Secretary determines that a disclosure is a Public Interest Disclosure, in order to ensure the information is investigated and the Discloser is protected from any retributive action, the University Secretary may develop investigation and protection plans in consultation with the Discloser. The investigation plan will address whether immediate action needs to be taken to halt the conduct or remedy the danger to which the Public Interest Disclosure relates. The protection plan will assess the risk of reprisal to the Discloser and recommend strategies for action to be taken to mitigate the risk of reprisal or detrimental action against the Discloser. This should include an assessment of the Discloser’s involvement in any other dispute resolution procedures.  An investigation plan should also consider appropriate action if the matters raised by the disclosure are found to be substantially verified.

The University may choose to engage an internal or external investigator or legal adviser, to assist with the assessment or investigation of the disclosure required under the Act.  The disclosure will not otherwise be referred to another party except in accordance with the Act.  Any personnel (whether internal or external to the University) involved in the investigation will be fully briefed by the University Secretary on their obligations under the Act and this policy, and the consequences of any breach of the obligations.

A determination that a disclosure is not a Public Interest Disclosure may be reviewable under the Judicial Review Act 1991 (Qld). Care should be taken therefore to structure the written advice arising from the assessment to include the contents of the disclosure, material findings regarding the disclosure, evidence relied upon to support the material findings and reasons for any further action.

All persons involved in the assessment or investigation of a disclosure are required to maintain confidentiality with respect to that disclosure.  Breaches of confidentiality are indictable offences.

7. Report

Once a disclosure has been investigated, a report of the investigation will be provided to the University Secretary. The report may contain recommendations for further action.

8.  Obligations to keep Discloser informed

A Discloser will be provided in writing with reasonable information about the disclosure that person has made including:

  1. confirmation that the disclosure was received by the public sector entity

  2. a description of the action proposed to be taken, or taken, by the public sector entity in relation to the disclosure;

  3. if action has been taken by the public sector entity in relation to the disclosure, a description of the results of the action.

In addition, the University will discuss with the Discloser:

  1. the likely timeframes

  2. their involvement

  3. the importance of the Discloser and the University maintaining confidentiality

  4. the relevant protections under the Act that will apply

  5. how the Discloser will be advised on progress and outcomes

  6. which officer of the University will be their contact person should they require further information or are concerned about reprisals

9. Action

The University Secretary will decide what further action (if any) will be taken on the disclosure.

10. Confidentiality

A person may make a record of confidential information or disclose it to someone else—

(a) to discharge their responsibilities under the Act;

(b) to discharge a function under another Act; or

(c) for a proceeding in a court or tribunal; or

(d) if the person to whom the confidential information relates consents in writing to the making of the record or disclosure of the information; or

(e) if no consent is obtainable and such recording or disclosure is unlikely to harm the interests of the person affected

Confidential information—

(a) includes—

(i) information about the identity, occupation, residential or work address or whereabouts of a person—

(A) who makes a public interest disclosure; or

(B) against whom a public interest disclosure has been made; and

(ii) information disclosed by a public interest disclosure; and

(iii) information about an individual’s personal affairs; and

(iv) information that, if disclosed, may cause detriment to a person; and

(b) does not include information publicly disclosed to a court, tribunal or other entity that may receive evidence under oath, unless further disclosure is prohibited by law.

Obligations of natural justice and procedural fairness may require the University to disclose information to a person whose rights would otherwise be detrimentally affected (eg a person accused of serious misconduct). Such a disclosure will only be made where it is unlikely that a reprisal will be taken against the person making the disclosure.

Breaching the obligation of confidentiality is a criminal offence, and may also be misconduct or serious misconduct.

11.  Support for Public Officers against Whom a Public Interest Disclosure has been Made

A person who is the subject of, or is in some way associated with a disclosure are important, and as a person against whom a Public Interest Disclosure is made, is entitled to confidentiality and the presumption of innocence.

Public Officers who are the subject of an allegation may seek assistance from their legal representative or union and may utilise the services of the Employee Assistance Program for advice and counselling. This service provides confidential counselling and support.

12. Record Keeping and Reporting

Although Public Interest Disclosures are required to be kept confidential, the University has some reporting and record-keeping obligations imposed on it, both under the Act and other Acts that prevail over this obligation of confidentiality.

The University Secretary must keep a record of all Public Interest Disclosures or purported Public Interest Disclosures received by the University. These records will be kept in the central records system as limited access files and will be strictly confidential.

The University Secretary is responsible, on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, for fulfilling the University's reporting obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which includes preparation of a report to be included in the University's Annual Report. The report must contain statistical information about the number of disclosures received by the University for the foregoing fiscal year and the number of disclosures substantially verified. The specific content of the disclosures, or the identity of disclosers are not included in this information.

In some cases the University Secretary may be bound to inform other agencies about the contents of a disclosure, such as the Crime and Misconduct Commission. In other cases, the University Secretary may be of the view that it is appropriate for other agency staff to be informed. In all cases, the confidentiality of the identity of the person making the disclosure will be protected to the greatest extent permitted by law and the University Secretary will (where practical) consult with the Discloser before informing the other agency.

13. Reprisals

The Act provides that a person must not cause, or attempt to conspire to cause, detriment to another person because, or in the belief that, anybody has made, or may make, a Public Interest Disclosure. Such conduct is called a reprisal. Reprisals are not condoned or tolerated by the University.

In addition to being an offence and a civil wrong, taking a reprisal may also be misconduct or serious misconduct.

A person suffering a reprisal has legal protection under Chapter 4 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Any information about reprisals at the University should immediately be referred to the University Secretary. Any such information is a Public Interest Disclosure and will be treated in accordance with this policy.

D. Further information

Further advice about this policy can be obtained from the University Secretary or the Director, Audit and Assurance Office.

Related documents, legislation or JCU Statutes

Alleged Misconduct/Serious Misconduct/Official Misconduct of Staff Guidelines for Processing

Alleged Misconduct of Staff – Process Flow Chart

Fraud and Corruption Control: Guidelines for Best Practice - Crime and Misconduct Commission

Guidelines for Preventing and Detecting Fraud and Corruption at James Cook University

Code of Conduct

Professional Conduct

Reportable Gifts Policy

Code of Conduct for the University Council and its Committees

Conflict of Interests of a Member of Council or a Committee of Council Policy

Student Conduct Policy

Risk Management Policy

Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld)

Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010

Crime and Misconduct Act 2001(Qld)

Queensland Criminal Code Act 1899

Financial Accountability Act 2009

Financial Accountability Regulation 2009

Financial and Performance Management Standard 2009

Financial Management Standard 1997 (Part 5, Division 5)

Australian Standard: AS 8001-2008 Fraud and Corruption Control

Integrity Framework

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources

Approval authority:

Human Resources Committee

Approval date:

24/06/2015

Version no:

15-1

Date for next review:

30/11/2016

Modification History

Version

Revision date

Description of changes

Author

15-1

24/06/2015

Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect approved policy framework

Quality, Standards and Policy

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

12-1

26/04/12

26/04/12

Amendments approved by Council

11-1

01/12/2011

02/12/2011

 

10-1

25/02/2010

26/02/2010

There are no related procedures.

There are no other related documents.