Would We Need Whistleblowing, if we had Open Government? Frank Costigan QC Chairman, Transparency International Australia Canberra Symposium, 12 July 2005
This concern is not limited to Canberra. On 21 June 2005 it was reported in the Age that the Victorian government had introduced regulations which prevented public servants from raising allegations to private investigation agencies which used to act as independent third parties. It was said in the article:
- Public servants wanting to expose alleged corruption in their departments have been shackled by changes to Victoria’s whistleblower rules.
- Government regulations ban private companies from receiving such complaints.
- The change means public servants have fewer options to raise allegations outside the bureaucracy.
- While they can make complaints to the Ombudsman, or to their own employers, they are prevented from turning to private investigation firms, which used to act as independent third parties.
- Critics fear the change will deter people from exposing misconduct in department ranks.
“Forcing people to go to their own departments with information on corruption or misconduct really does make it difficult to be a whistleblower in this state,” said the Opposition’s scrutiny of government spokesman, Richard Dalla-Riva.
“Why would the Bracks Labor Government want to control what is being said about its departments – what has it to hide?”
The regulations were introduced by Attorney-General Rob Hulls in 2002, but came to light this year when Glenn Birrell, a former Victorian detective-sergeant who now runs a private firm specialising in whistleblower services, complained to the Government after finding that his business, Your-Call Pty Ltd, specialist in disclosure management services, could no longer receive complaints from public servants under state laws.
Mr Birrell said the move undermined the Ombudsman’s own guidelines, and ought to be reexamined.
“If people genuinely want to raise concerns or blow the whistle in relation to corruption,they’re more likely to do it outside of the organisation,” he said.
“What concerns us is if the whistleblower now wants to come forward with a complaint, this regulation will void them of their opportunity to make a protected disclosure.”
Whistleblowing: Australian Laws, Resources and Information
Inquiry into Fraud and Electronic Commerce Parliament of Victoria Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Final Report January 2004
Recommended the establishment of the
Victorian Fraud Information and Reporting Centre (VFIRC) within Victoria Police to co-ordinate and respond to all aspects of fraud reporting.
Committee heard “one of the most common ways in which fraud is detected and reported is through the use of “˜whistleblowers’ ““ people who reveal wrongdoing within an organisation to the public or to those in positions of authority.”
The Committee was advised, however, that some individuals fear reporting fraud because it may result in their being discriminated against or otherwise subjected to harassment, intimidation or reprisals. This is particularly the case in the private sector, where whistleblowers are provided with no statutory protection against reprisals. To overcome this problem, the Committee has recommended extending the scope of the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 (Vic) to cover the private sector as well as the public sector .
Auditing Standard AUS 210 (January 2002)
The Auditor’s Responsibility to Consider Fraud and Error in an Audit of a Financial Report