1. Purpose and Scope
The purpose of this policy is to
- Promote high standards of conduct and ethical behaviour throughout On the Line (OTL) and encourage a positive and open environment to report wrongdoing
- To help deter wrongdoing in line with the entity’s risk management and governance framework
- Support people to make disclosures about actual or suspected breaches of OTL Code of Conduct and to eliminate the negative connotations associated with whistleblowing
- Provide a process and supportive system on how OTL will properly deal with all reported serious misconduct or unethical behaviour without fear of recrimination or victimisation
- Assist in ensuring that serious misconduct or unethical behaviour is identified and dealt with appropriately
- Outline OTL’s commitment to abide by the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 and the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 (Vic), as well as aligning with the ASX’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations and relevant standards.
This Policy and Work Instruction is relevant to all OTL’s Board Directors, Executives, contractors, suppliers and employees as well as all those covered under relevant legislation.
The legislation relating to Whistleblowers provides protection from retribution to persons who seek to make disclosures of misconduct or wrong. The Act makes disclosure of the identity of a whistleblower and undertaking action harmful to a whistleblower as a criminal offence.
OTL adopts this Whistleblower Policy which encompasses all current relevant legislation and furthermore believes this Policy is also essential for good corporate governance and risk management within the organisation. OTL believes this policy is directly in line with the company’s values, code of conduct and ethics policy.
This policy has been prepared to ensure that people can raise concerns about actual or suspected contravention of our ethical and legal standards without fear of reprisal or feeling threatened in the process. All persons are encouraged to report any genuine matters or behaviour that they honestly believe contravenes OTL’s Code of Conduct, policies, procedures or the law.
This Policy and Work Instruction will be reviewed every two years by the Finance, Risk & Audit Committee to ensure effectiveness and compliance with legal and other regulatory obligations.
3.1 What sort of concerns does this Policy apply to?
A Whistleblower (also known as a ‘discloser’) is entitled to protection under this Policy if they make a qualifying disclosure to an eligible recipient (see clause 3.2 below). A qualifying disclosure involves reporting conduct by a charity or an officer or employee of the charity that represents misconduct, an improper state of affairs or circumstances, or breach of the law. This can include:
- Conduct that contravenes the Corporations Act
- Any offence against another Commonwealth Law that is punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more
- Conduct that represents a danger to the public or the financial system, or
- Actions or conduct as prescribed by relevant legislation.
To qualify for protection, the Whistleblower must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the information they will disclose indicates misconduct.
It should be noted that disclosures that are not considered to be ‘disclosable matters’ under the legislation do not qualify for protection. It should be noted that OTL discourages deliberate false reporting under this Policy and this Policy is not applicable for internal grievances. For internal grievances, please refer to the Grievance and Dispute policy AD-WI-65.
3.2 Who does this Policy apply to?
The legislation allows for an eligible person to make a report if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that OTL, an Executive, staff member, Board Director or a supplier or contract provider of OTL may be involved in corrupt or detrimental behaviour.
This eligible person can include someone who is or was:
- An officer or employee of the organisation (including past employees)
- An associate, individual, contractor, supplier or employee of a person that may supply goods or contract to the organisation
- A spouse, relative or dependant of any of the above, or
- An individual prescribed by the legislation as being an eligible whistleblower
This individual can remain anonymous and will still qualify for protection.
4. Work Instruction
4.1 Who to report to?
In order to qualify for protection under the legislation, the whistleblower (also known as an ‘Eligible Recipient’) must report the behaviour to any one or more of the following:
- The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)
- The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA)
- A Commonwealth body nominated for this purpose in the Regulations (this does not include the ACNC)
- A legal practitioner, if someone is seeking legal advice about whether the protections will apply to them
- An officer or senior manager at OTL
- An auditor or member of the audit team for OTL, or
- A person that the organisation has authorised to receive a disclosure (this can include a person external to OTL).
For further information go to www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au.
In order to make a disclosure, it is recommended that:
- The Whistleblower forms a reasonable suspicion in relation to a reportable matter
- The Whistleblower must contact one or more of those individuals or entities as prescribed under clause 4.1 above. This can be in writing or verbally. If this disclosure is to an external party, the Whistleblower should be mindful and assess the way in which it engages with that external party. If the disclosure is to OTL directly, then an email should be sent to the attention of OTL’s Head of Shared Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or a surface mail letter posted to the attention of OTL’s Head of Shared Services clearly stating the concern with all relevant information being mindful of confidentiality.
- Where the Whistleblower is not anonymous, they will receive an email or letter confirming receipt of the disclosure from OTL or the other party in writing; or
- If the Whistleblower wishes to remain anonymous, then they may use the process above noting explicitly that they wish to remain anonymous or otherwise contact an Executive or preferred member of staff to disclose the matter. The recipient of the report must provide a statement of the matter to a relevant person within OTL while maintaining the anonymity of the Whistleblower.
4.3 What happens after a report is made?
- OTL will commence an internal investigation, may seek further information and provide feedback to the Whistleblower. Depending on the nature of the matter, the information may be shared with the Board or a Board Director. A meeting with the Whistleblower will be held to assess the report and determine actions. OTL will keep the Whistleblower informed (if they are not anonymous)
- OTL will ensure investigations are undertaken following best practice in relation to maintaining confidentiality, document management communications at all times, and
- A determination will be made by a relevant Executive or Board Director, depending on the nature of the matter, ensuring all decisions are documented, together with risks, issues clearly investigated, lessons learnt and any practice or procedure to be implemented.
The determination will not be disclosed to anyone except those who are actively involved in investigating the matters raised in the report, depending on the confidential nature of the report. This determination may include incidents of reprisal or detriment and this may be dealt with as a disciplinary offence.
4.4 What happens to you as a Whistleblower (Eligible Recipient)?
OTL will take all reasonable steps to ensure that adequate and appropriate protection is being provided for those who, in good faith, make a report. This protection applies if the matter is proven or not, regardless of whether it is reported to an external authority. OTL will ensure it protects the confidentiality nature of the report as well as the Whistleblower. This protection extends to identity protection, protection from detrimental acts or omissions, compensation and remedies and civil, criminal and administrative liability provision, all as permitted under the relevant legislation.
The reporter will not be discriminated against or disadvantaged in their employment with OTL for making a report in accordance with this policy, nor will they receive reprisals due to their actions in making a report.
Where anonymity is required, OTL will ensure:
- all personal information or reference to the discloser witnessing an event will be redacted;
- the discloser will be referred to in a gender-neutral context;
- where possible, the discloser will be contacted to help identify certain aspects of their disclosure that could inadvertently identify them; and
- disclosures will be handled and investigated by qualified staff.
- Secure record-keeping and information-sharing processes
OTl will ensure that:
- all paper and electronic documents and other materials relating to disclosures will be stored securely
- access to all information relating to a disclosure will be limited to those directly involved in managing and investigating the disclosure
- only a restricted number of people who are directly involved in handling and investigating a disclosure will be made aware of a discloser’s identity (subject to the discloser’s consent) or information that is likely to lead to the identification of the discloser
- communications and documents relating to the investigation of a disclosure will not to be sent to an email address or to a printer that can be accessed by other staff, and
- each person who is involved in handling and investigating a disclosure will be reminded about the confidentiality requirements, including that an unauthorised disclosure of a discloser’s identity may be a criminal offence.
5. References/Related Documents
- Victorian Ombudsman – https://www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au/
- Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 (Vic)
- Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)
- Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 (Cth)
- Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth)
Whistleblower The person who reports to the relevant agency, person or authorities of an employer’s illegal action or practice. Whistleblowers are entitled to a number of protections under state and federal law. Also known as disclosers or Entitled Recipient.
Disclosure: The act or process of revealing or uncovering.