Chief Ombudsman releases new Protected Disclosures Act guidance for Ministers
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has published a new guide which provides information and guidance for Ministers who may receive protected disclosures.
The Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 (or PDA) is about disclosing serious wrongdoing – sometimes called ‘whistle-blowing’ – and explains the procedures to be followed when making a disclosure, as well as the protections available to those who do make a disclosure.
The Act builds on the previous provisions and provides some additional protections for whistleblowers. It also streamlines the disclosure process.
People may approach Ministers for advice before making a protected disclosure. While it is not generally possible for a person to make a protected disclosure to a Minister in the first instance, the Act provides for the escalation of a protected disclosure to a Minister if the discloser believes that the receiver has not handled their disclosure as it should under the Act or has not addressed the serious wrongdoing. The Ombudsman may also refer a disclosure to a Minister in these circumstances.
“New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to introduce legislation that protects people who report concerns of serious wrongdoing in their workplace. But it was apparent that the original law wasn’t working as well as it should for either employees or organisations,” Mr Boshier says.
“Already under the existing law, special provisions allow the Ombudsman to review and guide any public sector organisation that’s carrying out an investigation of a protected disclosure. I’m also one of the ‘appropriate authorities’ that can receive disclosures directly and investigate them—and I provide guidance to employees about handling and making protected disclosures.
The new Act also gives the Ombudsman an expanded role.
“My advisory role has been expanded to provide independent information and guidance to anyone. This includes both past and present employees, organisations (both public sector and others) and third parties. Whistleblowers are now able to raise matters directly with me and other appropriate authorities on a range of subjects without first having to complain within their organisation,” Mr Boshier says.
The legislation was passed into law in July last year and updated the original Protected Disclosures Act 2000.