22 June 2011

Last year, as the New South Wales opposition leader,  Barry O’Farrell was very critical of misconduct by the State Government. Now, as Premier, he has announced measures he claims will restore integrity in government by “strengthening the powers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), restoring integrity to government advertising, and introducing new protections for whistleblower.”

These measures will build on legislation that was passed late last year by the previous Government and which comes into force on 1 July.  The whistleblower proposals will require agencies to

  • notify whistleblowers of progress within 45 days
  • designate an officer as point of contact for whistleblowers  and
  • report the number of whistleblower disclosures made each quarter

These will make it easier to make complaints not only about incidents of corruption, maladministration, and serious and substantial waste , but any “conduct of a kind that constitutes a failure to exercise functions in accordance with any provision of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009”.

The New Zealand Protected Disclosures Act already has the characteristics proposed by NSW, except for the requirement to report each quarter about disclosures. This is the information that in Canada is published on each agency’s website alongside the expenses and gift disclosures of senior officials.

One of the recommendations made following the New Zealand State Services integrity survey in 2010 was that agencies should pay greater attention to the statutory requirement to periodically republish information about their protected disclosures policy.  There is very little evidence of any agency complying.