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CSIRO Public Interest Disclosure Scheme

Whistleblowing under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

  • 3 February 2014

Background

The PID Act gives a right to Public Officials to disclose information about suspected wrongdoing in CSIRO and other parts of the Commonwealth public sector.

From 15 January 2014, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Cth) (PID Act) gives a right to Public Officials to disclose information about suspected wrongdoing in CSIRO and other parts of the Commonwealth public sector.

The PID Act aims to promote integrity and accountability in the Australian public sector – including CSIRO – by encouraging the disclosure of information about suspected wrongdoing, protecting people who make disclosures and requiring agencies to take action.

For information on the Australian Government’s approach to Public interest Disclosure and a copy of the PID Act go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman [external link].

The PID Act provides a legislative basis for the CSIRO Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Scheme and associated protections. The following is a summary of the Scheme.

Who can access the CSIRO Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Scheme

The CSIRO PID Scheme is only available to ‘Public Officials’. It is not open to the general public.

In the CSIRO PID Scheme, ‘Public Officials’ includes:

  • current and former CSIRO staff members,
  • current and former CSIRO affiliates (see Definition), and
  • current and former staff of contracted and subcontracted service providers to CSIRO, ie:
    • individuals who are contracted or subcontracted to provide goods or services to CSIRO when they are entering into or carrying out the contract or subcontract
    • officers and employees of companies that are contracted or subcontracted to provide goods or services to CSIRO when the officers and employees are entering into or carrying out the contract or subcontract.

For some CSIRO affiliates, a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient will need to make a determination that they are a ‘Public Official’ to qualify under the CSIRO PID Scheme.

What can be disclosed

‘Public Officials’ who have information that they believe on reasonable grounds tends to show ‘disclosable conduct’ engaged in by:

  • a Commonwealth agency (eg CSIRO);
  • a Public Official, in connection with his or her position as a Public Official; or
  • a contracted service provider for a Commonwealth (including CSIRO) contract, in connection with entering into, or giving effect to, that contract.

   may disclose or report such information to a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient.

The types of ‘disclosable conduct’ under the PID Act include conduct which:

  • contravenes a law
  • is corrupt
  • perverts the course of justice
  • results in wastage of public funds
  • is an abuse of public trust or position
  • is maladministration, including conduct that is unjust, oppressive or negligent
  • unreasonably endangers health and safety or endangers the environment
  • is misconduct relating to scientific research, analysis or advice.

Go to Commonwealth Ombudsman [external link] for a full list.

The following is not disclosable conduct:

  • disagreement with a government policy, action or expenditure
  • judicial conduct and the proper conduct of intelligence agencies
  • conduct of Members of Parliament.

Your disclosure should not be false, misleading, frivolous or vexatious.

How to make a public interest disclosure

Public interest disclosures by Public Officials may be made in writing or orally.

You can make a public interest disclosure to:

  • a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient, or
  • the Commonwealth Ombudsman or, for security and intelligence matters, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security — if you believe on reasonable grounds it is appropriate to do so in the circumstances.

People working in CSIRO may also make disclosures to their Supervisor.

Public interest disclosures may be made in writing by mail or email to, or by making an appointment for a confidential telephone call with a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient.

Email address: PIDdisclosures@csiro.au
Postal address: CSIRO Governance
PO Box 225
Dickson ACT 2602

All written correspondence must be labeled 'Private and Confidential', on the envelope if correspondence is posted, and in the subject line of email messages. If lodging disclosures through the post, please use a double envelope to minimise the risk of support staff inadvertently reading the correspondence.

When disclosing, be clear and factual and avoid speculation, personal attacks and emotive language as these can divert attention from the real issues.

Your disclosure should contain as much information as possible, including:

  • your name and contact details (unless you wish to remain anonymous)
  • the nature of the disclosable conduct
  • who you think committed the disclosable conduct
  • when and where the disclosable conduct occurred
  • relevant events surrounding the issue
  • if you did anything in response to the disclosable conduct
  • others who know about the disclosable conduct and may have allowed it to continue
  • names of any people who witnessed what happened or who may be able to verify what you are saying
  • if you are concerned about possible reprisals as a result of making the disclosure
  • information (such as supporting correspondence or other documents including file notes or a diary of events) you have to support the disclosure.

You may use the Public Interest Disclosure to CSIRO template to make a disclosure (optional).

Anonymous disclosures

Public Officials may provide a disclosure anonymously, however this will reduce an investigator’s ability to investigate the matter, and the outcomes of the disclosure or investigation may not be able to be reported back to the discloser.

If you advise that you wish to remain anonymous, the Authorised Internal Recipient will take care to keep your contact details and identifying information confidential.

Everyone should recognise however that even if the staff involved in handling a disclosure take the utmost care to protect the discloser’s identity, they may not be able to prevent the person’s identity from becoming known or deduced.

Protections and confidentiality

If you make a disclosure, the PID Act provides certain protections from reprisals. Your identity will be treated confidentially and identifying information will only be used for the purposes of the PID Act (including the investigation) unless you consent to some additional use.

All disclosures will be handled in a confidential manner.

Go to Commonwealth Ombudsman [external link] for further information.

What you can expect from us

You can seek assistance from an Authorised Internal Recipient if you need help making a public interest disclosure.

Within 14 days after you make a disclosure, a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient will tell you (provided you are contactable) either:

  • which agency will be handling your disclosure, or
  • the reasons why your disclosure has not been allocated to CSIRO or another agency for further action.

If your disclosure is allocated to CSIRO to handle, CSIRO’s PID Investigator will advise you either that:

  • the disclosed conduct will be investigated and the estimated time the investigation will take (investigations must be completed within 90 days unless the Ombudsman grants an extension), or
  • the disclosed conduct will not be investigated giving reasons and suggesting other courses of action that might be available.

The investigation, if any, will be conducted in accordance with the PID Act. You may be contacted if the PID Investigator requires more information and you will be provided with a copy of the investigation report (after confidential and privacy-related information has been redacted).

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your disclosure

You may make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman under the Ombudsman Act 1976 about a decision not to allocate or investigate your disclosure or about the way that your disclosure has been handled or investigated.

You may also make an external public interest disclosure to anyone if you have first made an internal disclosure (eg through the CSIRO PID Scheme) provided that it is not contrary to the public interest to do so and either:

  1. the investigation has exceeded the time limit, or
  2. you reasonably believe that the investigation or its outcome was inadequate.

You may also make an emergency disclosure if you reasonably believe there is a substantial and imminent danger to health, safety or the environment.

Go to Commonwealth Ombudsman [external link] for further information before making an external or emergency disclosure as specific conditions apply.

Allocations from other Commonwealth agencies

Other Commonwealth agencies who propose to allocate a public interest disclosure to CSIRO should first contact a CSIRO Authorised Internal Recipient at PIDdisclosures@csiro.au.

More information

Go to Commonwealth Ombudsman [external link] for a copy of the PID Act and information sheets and guides.

Definitions

In CSIRO, a ‘CSIRO affiliate’ means a person associated with CSIRO but who is not a staff member, namely: contractors; consultant; secondee; visiting scientist; honorary, post retirement or volunteer fellow; or student or trainee.

The CSIRO affiliate’s association with CSIRO is normally under some form of agreement to work in CSIRO.

If you are having difficulty accessing this information, please use either the contact information listed for this page or email CSIRO Enquiries within business hours. You can also request further assistance through our Accessibility webpage.