Whistleblower policy

1. Purpose

NPS MedicineWise is committed to the highest standards of conduct and to promoting and supporting a culture of honest and ethical behaviour, corporate compliance and good corporate governance.

Through this Policy, NPS MedicineWise encourages the reporting of any instances of suspected unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable conduct involving NPS MedicineWise and provides protections and measures so that those persons who make a report may do so confidentially and without fear of intimidation, disadvantage or reprisal.

The objectives of this Whistleblower Policy are to:

  • Provide any person making an allegation of Reportable Conduct (“Whistleblower”) with a clear framework within which to make that allegation as a Protected Disclosure.
  • Ensure any reports of Reportable Conduct are dealt with appropriately including being properly and lawfully investigated and addressed.
  • Provide Whistleblowers with a clear understanding of how allegations will be handled.
  • Protect Whistleblowers from victimisation and retaliation.
  • Support Whistleblowers throughout the reporting process.
  • Afford procedural fairness to anyone who is the subject of an allegation of Reportable Conduct
 

2. Scope

2.1 To whom does this Policy Apply?

This policy applies to:

  • All current and former permanent, maximum term and casual employees of NPS MedicineWise,
  • Directors,
  • Consultant / contractors (including subcontractors and employees),
  • NPS MedicineWise clients and suppliers (and their employees), and
  • any other external party who may be engaged from time to time.
  • It also extends to relatives of the above categories.

2.2 Matters this Policy applies to

Subject to the requirement that a Whistleblower must have reasonable grounds to believe a person has engaged in a Reportable Conduct, this Policy applies to reports or disclosures, about behaviour that is:

  • Dishonest, fraudulent corrupt,
  • Illegal, including theft, dealing in or use of illicit drugs, violence or threatened violence, and criminal damage of property,
  • Unethical, oppressive or grossly negligent including breach of the NPS MedicineWise Code of Conduct and other relevant Policies,
  • Potentially damaging to NPS MedicineWise, its employees or a third party,
  • Misconduct or an improper state of affairs,
  • A danger or represent a danger the public or financial system, and
  • Harassment, discrimination, victimisation or bullying (for more details see Workplace, Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Policy).

To avoid doubt Reportable Conduct does not include personal work-related grievances (e.g. an interpersonal conflict, decision relating to the engagement, transfer or promotion of a staff member, a decision relating to engagement terms and conditions, a decision to suspend or terminate the engagement with a staff member). These matters are dealt with procedures in the NPS MedicineWise ‘Grievance Procedure’.

2.3 What is the effect of this Policy?

Where a person who has a reasonable ground to suspect a Reportable Conduct reports it, he or she qualifies for protection as described in this Policy. The protection continues to apply even if their disclosure turns out to be incorrect (so long as there were reasonable grounds for the disclosure).

 

3. Making a disclosure (report)

NPS MedicineWise relies on its employees maintaining a culture of honest and ethical behaviour. Accordingly, if you become aware of any Reportable Conduct it is expected that you make a disclosure under this Policy.

Prior to making a report, additional information about this Policy and the procedures associated with it, advice can be obtained by contacting a Whistleblower Governance Officer (see Appendix A). Legal advice may also be sought. Where legal advice is sought in relation to the operation of the Whistleblower provisions, disclosures to a legal advisor are themselves protected disclosures under this Policy.

Depending on whether the Whistleblower is internal or external a protected disclosure may be made using the reporting channels outlined below.

3.1 External Whistleblower

Directors, former directors, former employees, relatives of internal personnel, clients and suppliers.

Where an external Whistleblower is able to identify and contact a manager or Executive Manager of NPS MedicineWise, they can verbally or in writing report their concerns to that person.

Where this is not appropriate, an alternative reporting mechanism is available as outlined below.

3.2 Internal Whistleblower

Employees, contractors or consultants.

Internal Whistleblowers that have a line manager are encouraged to verbally or in writing report their concerns to their manager to seek a response. Where the person believes this is not appropriate, then an alternative reporting mechanism is available (see below).

3.3 Alternative Reporting

Alternative reporting channels are available where the normal reporting channel is considered inappropriate to the circumstances. For example, where NPS MedicineWise was previously notified but failed to deal with the matter, where the alleged Reportable Conduct involves any of the primary reporting channels, or if the person or organisation disclosing Reportable Conduct is concerned about possible retaliation.

In any of these circumstances, a Whistleblower may report the Reportable Conduct directly to:

  • a Whistleblower Governance Officer (see Appendix A);
  • the Whistleblower Line (see below for details); or
  • a person or entity who is eligible to receive the disclosure under the Corporations Act 2001 including the NPS MedicineWise external auditor and the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commissioner (ACNC).

In limited circumstances disclosures can be made to a journalist or Parliamentarian and qualify for protection (see Appendix B).

3.3.1 Anonymous Reporting

Anonymous reports of Reportable Conduct are protected under this Policy. However, to ensure that anonymous reports do not inhibit a proper and appropriate inquiry or investigation, two-way communication between the discloser and NPS MedicineWise is still important to ensure investigation of the matter is not compromised.

3.3.2 Whistleblower Line

The Whistleblower Line is a telephone answering service to receive disclosures of Reportable Conduct as well as unresolved reports of Reportable Conducts. By leaving a message using the Whistleblower Line a person can be sure that the detail left in the message about a Reportable Conduct will promptly be provided to an appropriate Whistleblower Governance Officer.

The Whistleblower Line is monitored by the NPS MedicineWise Legal, Governance and Risk Manager (and in his/her absence either the Quality Manager or a member of the Governance team).

The Whistleblower Line may be contacted by dialling (02) 8217 8635.

 

4. Legal Protections

NPS MedicineWise adopts the principle of providing protection to those who this Policy applies to at least to the extent of protection that must be provided by law and as described in this section.

  • Identity Protection
  • NPS MedicineWise has a legal obligation to protect the confidentiality of the identity of a discloser. There are circumstances where it may disclose information that is likely to lead to the identification of the discloser. These include:
  • where the discloser has provided consent;
  • to obtain legal advice;
  • it is reasonably necessary for investigating the issues raised in the disclosure; and
  • as otherwise authorised or required by law.

NPS MedicineWise will take all reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality. For example, personal information will be redacted from records, access to records will be limited and stored securely and disclosures will be handled by qualified staff.

If a discloser considers that NPS MedicineWise has unlawfully failed to protect his or her identity he may lodge a complaint to the Chief Executive Office of NPS MedicineWise or approach the Australian Charities and Not-for Profit Commissioner (ACNC) with a complaint.

4.1 Protection from Retaliation

NPS MedicineWise will not tolerate any retaliatory action or threats of retaliatory action against a Whistleblower, or against a Whistleblower’s colleagues, employer (if a contractor, consultant or supplier) or relatives.

Protection covers both detrimental acts and omissions. For example, a Whistleblower must not be disadvantaged or victimized for having made the report by:

dismissal or termination of services or supply;

alteration of an employee’s position or duties to his or her disadvantage;

discrimination, victimisation or harassment;

current or future bias; and/or

threats of any of the above.

Any such retaliatory action or victimisation in reprisal for a disclosure made under this Policy will be treated as serious misconduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.

A Whistleblower may seek remedies including compensation, civil penalties or reinstatement if being subject to detrimental acts or omissions.

4.2 Protection from Legal Action

Protections exist for persons that have disclosed Reportable Conduct from civil, criminal and administrative liabilities. However, the protections do not grant immunity for any misconduct a discloser has engaged in that is revealed by their disclosure.

 

5. Investigation

NPS MedicineWise will investigate all matters reported under this Policy as soon as practicable after a matter has been reported. The relevant Whistleblower Governance Officer will conduct a summary assessment and if necessary appoint an internal or external investigator to assist in conducting the investigation.

All investigations will be conducted in a fair, independent and timely manner and all reasonable efforts will be made to preserve confidentiality during the investigation.

5.1 Investigation process

A Whistleblower’s report may only be investigated and acted upon following referral to a Whistleblower Governance Officer. Any other person (such as a manager) who receives a report of a Reportable Conduct must immediately refer it to a Whistleblower Governance Officer, take no further action and keep the report confidential

If the report is not anonymous, the Whistleblower Governance Officer or external investigator will contact the discloser to discuss the investigation process and any other matters relevant to the investigation.

The Whistleblower Governance Officer is appointed to:

Safeguard the interests of the Whistleblower,

Assess the immediate welfare and protection needs of a Whistleblower and, where the Whistleblower is an employee, seek to foster a supportive work environment,

Respond as appropriate and necessary to any concerns or reports of victimisation by a Whistleblower.

If the discloser has chosen to remain anonymous, the identity will not be disclosed to the investigator or to any other person and NPS MedicineWise will conduct the investigation base on the information provided.

Where possible, the Whistleblower Governance Officer will provide the discloser with feedback on the progress and expected timeframes of the investigation.

Details of the steps that NPS MedicineWise will take upon receipt of a disclosure, including the support available to a person making a disclosure, are set out in the ‘Manage Whistleblower Incident’ on Promapp.

5.2 Investigation Outcomes

The role of the Investigator is outlined in Appendix A

In summary, he or she is required to:

Investigate the matters referred to in the disclosure in a timely manner;

As soon as reasonably practicable, provide an investigation report to the Whistleblower Governance Officer which should include a description of the steps taken, findings of fact (judged on the balance of probabilities), recommendations for appropriate action.

Following the receipt of the report from the Investigator, the Whistleblower Governance Officer is required to consider the report from the Investigator and to ensure appropriate steps (if required) are taken to address matters referred to in the disclosure and to communicate the outcome to the Whistleblower.

The Whistleblowing Governance Officer will decide whether or not the person named in the allegation should be informed that a suspicion was raised and found to be baseless. This decision will be based on a desire to preserve the integrity of a person so named, so as to enable workplace culture to continue unfettered and to protect the Whistleblower.

Where an investigation does not substantiate the report, the fact that the investigation has been carried out, the results of the investigation and the identity of the person who is the subject of the report must be handled confidentially.

Generally, where an investigation is conducted and the investigator believes there may be a case for an individual to respond, the Investigator must ensure that a person who is the subject of a Whistleblower disclosure:

Is informed of the substance of the allegations;

Is given a fair and reasonable opportunity to answer the allegations before the investigation is finalised;

Has their response set out fairly in the Investigator’s report; and

Is informed about the substance of any conclusions (adverse or otherwise) in the investigator’s report that affects them.

Where adverse conclusions are made in an investigator’s report about an individual, that individual has a right to respond to those conclusions prior to any action being taken by NPS MedicineWise against them.

To the extent permitted by law, the Whistleblower Governance Officer may inform the discloser and/or the person against whom allegations have been made of the findings. Any report will remain the property of NPS MedicineWise.

The Whistleblower Governance Officer is also required to communicate to the Whistleblower the way in which NPS MedicineWise will monitor to ensure the Whistleblower is not unfairly treated because of the disclosure.

5.3 Record Keeping

NPS MedicineWise will establish and maintain records of all reports of Reportable Conduct received, the investigation process undertaken, and any actions taken to resolve the matter. Reasonable efforts will be mad to preserve the confidentiality of recorded information.

 

6. Failure to comply with this Policy

Any breach of this Policy may result in disciplinary action that could result in termination of employment.

 

7. Policy Availability

This Policy will be made available to internal personnel via the NPS MedicineWise intranet. It will be made available externally via the NPS MedicineWise internet page www.nps.org.au in the About Us section.

 

8. Related Policies

Other organisational policies that should be read in conjunction with this Policy include:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Conflicts of Interests Policy
  • Fraud Management Policy
  • Workplace, Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Policy
  • Grievance Procedure
 

Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities

Whistleblower Governance Officer

A Whistleblower Governance Officer is a person named below and is responsible for receiving Whistleblower disclosures of wrongdoing, keeping a discloser regularly informed and overseeing resolution.

  • All Executive Managers
  • The Legal Governance and Risk Manager
  • Any member of the Audit and Risk Committee

For a list of persons in these roles please email [email protected]

Alternatively, if the disclosure contains allegations against any NPS MedicineWise Executive Manager or where the Whistleblower has a reasonable belief that the Whistleblower Governance Officers are not sufficiently independent a report may be made to the Board Chair.

Whistleblower Governance Officer must (after reasonable preliminary inquiry):

  • Confirm safe receipt of the disclosure to the Whistleblower and keep him or her informed of the progress and outcome;
  • Make a summary assessment of the disclosure which should include an assessment of whether it qualifies for protection and whether an in-depth investigation is warranted;
  • If the Whistleblower agrees, appoint a Whistleblower Support Officer to provide support to the Whistleblower;
  • Inform the Protected Disclosures Coordinator;
  • (if required) appoint an Investigator;
  • Be satisfied that each disclosure of Reportable Conduct they received was appropriately inquired into or investigated;
  • Be satisfied that action taken in response to the inquiry/investigation is appropriate to the circumstances;
  • Provide governance oversight over any inquiry/investigation into any suspected retaliatory action taken against the Whistleblower

Protected Disclosures Coordinator

The following employees are Protected Disclosure Coordinators for the purposes of this Policy:

  • The Quality Manager
  • Contracts Support Officer
  • Governance Officer
  • Such other employee appointed and trained as such by the Legal Governance and Risk Manager

The Protected Disclosures Coordinator receives particulars about a Whistleblower events and performs the following functions:

  • Records the matter in Promapp as an Incident to be managed as such but ensuring the identity of the Whistleblower is protected and that access / viewing rights are appropriately restricted
  • In conjunction with the Investigator arranges for an inquiry/investigation into the disclosures made by the Whistleblower
  • Ensures appropriate government agencies are notified about Whistleblower events where required
  • Reviews recorded Whistleblower Incidents for trend analysis to identify systemic issues requiring attention and reports the same to the Quality Committee.

Investigator

NPS MedicineWise will investigate all matters reported under this Policy as soon as practicable after the matter has been reported. The Investigator is appointed by the Whistleblower Governance Officer and may be internal or external to NPS MedicineWise.

The Investigator must have internal independence of line management in the area affected by the wrongdoing disclosure. The internal investigator must be of appropriate seniority.

The investigation will be conducted in an objective and fair manner, and as is reasonable and appropriate having regard to the nature of the disclosure and the circumstances. Where a report is submitted anonymously, NPS MedicineWise will conduct the investigation and its enquiries based on the information provided to it. However, anonymity can sometimes prevent NPS MedicineWise from taking the issue further if NPS MedicineWise is not able to obtain further information from the source of the report.

Whistleblower Support Officer

If the Whistleblower wishes it, a Whistleblower Support Officer may be appointed who is a senior manager or other employee to support and provide protection to the Whistleblower according to this Policy.

The Whistleblower Support Officer will provide mentoring and other support deemed necessary by the Whistleblower Support Officer.

Managers

All managers who receive disclosure about wrongdoing covered by this Policy must notify a Whistleblower Governance Officer and provide particulars and maintain confidentiality about it.

 

Appendix B: Conditions for Public Interest and Emergency Disclosure

In exceptional situations, the Reportable Conduct may be of such gravity and urgency that disclosure to the media or a parliamentarian is necessary. A public interest and emergency disclosure can only be made to:

  • A journalist, defined to mean a person working in a professional capacity as a journalist for a newspaper, magazine, or radio/television broadcasting service or
  • A Member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory parliament.

A public interest and emergency disclosure may only be made if:

  • The information has previously been disclosed to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commissioner (ACNC).
  • At least 90 days has passed since the previous disclosure was made.
  • There are reasonable grounds to believe that action is not being taken to address the matters disclosed
  • There are reasonable grounds to believe that making a further disclosure to a journalist or member of parliament would be in the public interest
  • Written notification of the intent on making a public interest disclosure has been given, including sufficient information to identify the previous disclosure to the authority to which the previous disclosures was made
  • The extent of information disclosed is no greater than is necessary to inform the recipient of the misconduct or improper state of affairs.

Qualification for protection, where a public interest disclosure has been made, can be achieved if:

  • There are reasonable grounds to believe the information concerns a substantial and imminent danger to the health or safety of one or more persons, or to the natural environment, and
  • Written notification of the intent on making a public interest disclosure has been made, including enough information to identify the previous disclosure to the authority to which the previous disclosure was made, and
  • No more information is disclosed that is reasonably necessary to inform the recipient of the substantial and imminent danger
 

Document control

Current Version

This classification and other key details of this policy are listed below:

Title

Whistleblower policy

Security classification

INTERNAL

Document Owner

Board Audit & Risk Committee

Approving Authority

Board of Directors

Approval date

27/02/2020

Effective from

1/01/2020

Changes since last Published Version

The following changes have been made to this policy since the previous published version:

Section

Description of change

New Document