Together with other policies such as the Code of Conduct and NAATI Values, it protects NAATI’s reputation by supporting NAATI’s aim to build public trust and confidence in the integrity and professionalism of its services.
Employees, customers and suppliers may not wish to speak up and disclose any suspected misconduct for fear of being victimised or subject to retaliation for reporting it.
NAATI is committed to and has a responsibility that when a whistleblower makes a disclosure:
- their identity will be kept confidential, and they can remain anonymous if they wish;
- they will be protected against retaliation, discrimination, harassment or victimisation for making the disclosure;
- an independent internal or external investigation will be conducted to assess if the claims of misconduct are substantiated;
- issues identified from the investigation will be reported and addressed as outlined in the Investigation process section of this policy;
- they will be informed of the outcome of the investigation noting NAATI may be unable to disclose particular details of the investigation; and
- any retaliation for having made the disclosure will be treated as a serious breach of the Code of Conduct and this policy.
This policy applies to all NAATI officers, employees (current and former), contractors, consultants, service providers, suppliers and customers who are eligible to make a disclosure.
To qualify for protection as a whistleblower under this policy, a person must meet the criteria list in the table below.
Whistleblowing is a disclosure by a person who has reasonable grounds** to suspect there has been misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances that specifically relate to NAATI’s business operations. Examples of what is a ‘disclosable matter’ is provided below:
- fraud, money laundering or misappropriation of funds;
- offering or accepting bribes;
- breaches of legislation/regulations (including the Corporations Act, which NAATI is subject to);
- financial irregularities/loss detrimental to NAATI;
- substantial waste of public resources;
- practices endangering the health or safety of staff, volunteers, contractors or the general public;
- gross mismanagement or maladministration; and
- retaliation against a person who has made, or is planning to make, a disclosure under this policy.
**While a mere allegation with no supporting information is not likely to be considered as having ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect misconduct, NAATI encourages disclosers who have some information leading to a suspicion, but not all the details, to make a disclosure.
This policy does not replace internal grievance procedures for employees to raise matters relating to their work, work environment or decisions relating to their employment. It does not replace other reporting mechanisms such as those for discrimination, victimisation or matters relating to bullying and harassment.
Personal work-related grievances which are not covered under this policy include interpersonal conflicts, performance management issues, terms and conditions of engagement or decisions relating to transfers or promotions. In such instances, employees are directed to the procedures outlined in the Internal Grievance and Dispute Resolution Policy. However, a personal work-related grievance may still qualify for protection under this policy if:
- it also includes information about misconduct (which is accompanied by a personal work-related grievance);
- NAATI has breached employment or workplace laws;
- the disclosure relates to information that suggests the misconduct is beyond the discloser’s personal circumstances; or
- the discloser suffers from or is threatened with detriment for making a disclosure.
This Whistleblower Policy also does not replace the standard complaints process for customers or exercising of rights under the terms of a contract for contractors or suppliers, which is outlined in the Complaints Policy.
The exception to this is where these reporting mechanisms have failed to attend to the issue of a disclosable matter or have been dealt with in an inappropriate, grossly unfair or heavily biased manner.
Protection is available to whistleblowers who report a ‘disclosable matter’ even if their disclosure turns out to be incorrect. However, NAATI discourages deliberate false reporting of matters which a discloser knows to be untrue.
If a whistleblower meets the criteria listed below, legal protections under the Corporations Act include:
- identity protections (refer to the ‘Confidentiality’ section of this policy);
- protection from detrimental acts (see below);
- compensation and remedies; and
- civil, criminal and administrative liability protection (including legal action against the whistleblower for breach of employment contract including confidentiality provisions; attempted prosecution of the whistleblower for unlawfully releasing information; or disciplinary action for making the disclosure).
An eligible whistleblower qualifies for protection regardless of the channel (including external bodies such as APRA or ASIC) they use to report the disclosure and/or whether they make the disclosure anonymously.
NAATI will not tolerate any retaliation or threats against a whistleblower (or their colleagues or relatives) for making a disclosure, whether they were themselves part of the misconduct or not. Some examples of victimisation may include being dismissed, demoted, services terminated, harassment, discrimination, injury or damages to a person’s property or reputation. Any retaliation or victimisation for a disclosure made under this policy will be treated as serious misconduct and will lead to disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
Just because a whistleblower makes a disclosure does not mean they will be protected from the consequences if they were involved in the misconduct themselves. However, their cooperation in the investigation and remorse may be considered when NAATI is considering disciplinary action.
A whistleblower’s disclosure to their lawyer for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or representation in relation to the operation of the whistleblower provisions in the Corporations Act is protected.
A whistleblower is protected from civil, criminal and administrative liability in relation to their disclosure. NAATI cannot sue the whistleblower or terminate their employment for breaches of contract or confidentiality.
A whistleblower can receive compensation if a court finds they have suffered detriment in relation to their disclosure. Remedies may include payment of damages, reinstatement of employment or an apology.
Whistleblower disclosures can be made directly to senior management under the Corporations Act. However, whistleblowers can also make disclosures to other individuals (including Board Members) or certain external bodies to also qualify for protections (refer to the criteria listed below).
NAATI will accept anonymous reports of misconduct under this policy but such reports may have limitations on the full investigation of an allegation.
NAATI will not disclose a whistleblower’s identity unless the disclosure is required or authorised by law or it is necessary to further the investigation and the whistleblower has consented.
Equally, the whistleblower is to maintain confidentiality and not inform unauthorised persons. They are to follow the procedures outlined in this policy and allow for a full investigation to be undertaken.
When a disclosure is being investigated, it may be necessary to reveal details to people such as other NAATI employees, external persons involved in the investigation process and in appropriate circumstances, law enforcement agencies.
Although confidentiality will be maintained, sometimes the nature or details of the report, may make the whistleblower’s identity obvious to the person who is the subject of the allegation.
NAATI will ensure it stores any records relating to the disclosure securely and restrict access to authorised personnel only. Confidentiality applies to both disclosures that result in a formal investigation and where the allegations are followed up and found to be unsubstantiated. Unauthorised disclosure of information that could jeopardise confidentiality will be taken seriously and may result in disciplinary action.
It is important for NAATI to ensure an objective stance in dealing with disclosures. It will be necessary to disclose the facts and substance of a report to the person who may be the subject of the report for natural justice and procedural fairness.
The person named in the disclosure will be offered fair treatment – they will not be deemed to have committed any misconduct just because disclosure has been made unless the disclosure is substantiated after the investigation is finalised.
While it is important that protections and support are in place for the whistleblower, the person against whom a report is made against must also be supported during the handling and investigation process. The Manager, Corporate Services and Governance will appoint an independent senior officer in NAATI to provide support and the individual concerned (if they are a staff member) may contact NAATI’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Where a preliminary investigation is conducted and the investigator believes there may be a case for an individual to respond, they must ensure the person who is the subject of the disclosure:
- is informed of the subject matter of the disclosure;
- is given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations before the investigation is finalised;
- has their response included in the investigator’s report;
- is informed about any adverse findings in the Investigator’s report that affects them; and
- has the right to respond to the adverse findings before any action is taken by NAATI against them.
Essential criteria to qualify for protection under the Whistleblower Policy
|Eligible disclosure||A disclosure which is made in accordance with the ‘Who is a whistleblower and what is an eligible disclosure’ section of this policy. The disclosure should not be about a personal work-related grievance (unless specified in this policy) or a normal complaint from a customer (see the ‘What is not covered by this policy’ section for examples of what is not covered by this policy).|
|Reasonable grounds||Whistleblowers are eligible for protections if they have reasonable grounds to suspect the concerns they disclose.|
|Person making the disclosure||The person is a current or former:
• Officer of NAATI (including Board Directors)
• NAATI employee
• NAATI contractor
• Supplier to NAATI
• Customer of NAATI
• A relative of an individual referred to above.
|Persons/bodies who can receive a disclosure under this policy**||The person receiving the disclosure is one of the following:
• A Board Director or Company Secretary (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
• NAATI CEO
• NAATI manager or SELT member
• NAATI’s Company Auditor (PKF Canberra) (email: email@example.com)
• ASIC or APRA https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/contact-us/how-to-complain/report-misconduct-to-asic/ (ASIC) or email: PID@apra.gov.au
• ATO (for those relating to breach of taxation law).
** Disclosures can be made to a journalist or parliamentarian under certain circumstances, where the discloser has reasonable grounds to believe that:
- making a further disclosure of the information is in the public interest (and 90 days have passed since they have made their disclosure to another Commonwealth body such as ASIC or APRA); or
- the information concerns a substantial and imminent danger to the health or safety of one or more persons or to the natural environment.
Process for reporting a disclosure
Internal whistleblowers should make their disclosure of suspected or known misconduct to their manager in the first instance. Where a whistleblower is unable to approach their manager for certain reasons (i.e. they may be at greater risk of detriment), they can escalate it to a Senior Executive Leadership Team (SELT) member.
External whistleblowers (i.e. non-employees or contractors) can make a disclosure to any person in a management position within NAATI, including the CEO. They may prefer not to report their disclosure to a person they usually deal with at NAATI.
Where appropriate, whistleblowers can make disclosures to other individuals (including Board Members) or certain external bodies as listed in the essential criteria above.
It is preferable that the disclosure is made in writing together with information to assist any preliminary inquiries or formal investigations of the alleged misconduct.
Managers who receive a disclosure under this policy must notify the Manager, Corporate Services and Governance or the CEO and provide the details in a confidential manner. Written correspondence relating to the disclosure must be marked ‘Confidential’.
The Manager, Corporate Services and Governance will be responsible for coordinating the process and keeping all corporate records relating to the matter from the initial disclosure through to the final report. The Manager, Corporate Services and Governance will also discuss with the CEO, the formulation of the initial triage team, the appointment of an investigator (this will usually be a member of the SELT) and support persons for both the whistleblower and the person who is the subject of the disclosure.
If the disclosure is against a SELT member, then the disclosure can be reported to the CEO. If the disclosure is against the CEO, then the disclosure can be provided to the Chair of the NAATI Board’s Audit and Risk Management Committee.
If a person wants further information before making a formal disclosure under this policy, they can direct their enquiries to the Manager, Corporate Services and Governance either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning the NAATI National Office on 1300 557 470.
Stages of an investigation:
- Initial disclosure received;
- Preliminary assessment;
- Detailed investigation; and
- Final report (refer to the drop-down below).
NAATI will investigate matters in line with this policy in order to determine if the initial disclosure can be substantiated. This is usually done by a ‘triage’ team (determined by the CEO) consisting of a team of senior managers which may include human resources, operations and legal/compliance (Stage 2). This team will undertake a preliminary assessment including initial enquiries and, if further investigation is warranted, they will review the resources and timeframes required to resolve the matter (Stage 3).
If the initial disclosure warrants further investigation, the CEO will appoint an investigator (this will usually be a member of the senior management team). Investigations must be conducted promptly in a fair and independent manner. The investigator can either be internal or external and should have independence from discloser, the individuals named in the disclosure and the line management of the area affected by the disclosure. The investigator may utilise the expertise of other senior managers in their deliberations (Stage 4).
Investigations can include examination of data analytics (e.g. financial records and audit reports), review of emails and other electronic documents. This examination may also include investigation of the ‘sentiment’ of the communications, any patterns and anomalies. All relevant witnesses will be interviewed, and documents examined. Notes of all discussions, phone calls and interviews will be made and kept as part of the investigation process in a confidential and secure way.
The whistleblower is to be kept informed throughout the process of the investigation and the outcomes of the investigation, where appropriate.
Where a person is identified as being suspected of misconduct, but preliminary inquiries determine that the suspicion is unfounded and no formal investigation is required, then the whistleblower will be informed of this outcome and the matter will be closed. The CEO will decide whether the person named in the disclosure should be informed that a suspicion was raised and based on the preliminary investigation, was found to be baseless. This decision will be based on factors including preserving the integrity of the person named and the potential identification of the whistleblower.
Once all the information is gathered, the investigator prepares a final written report to the CEO (Stage 5). The report will include:
- the allegations;
- a statement of all relevant findings of fact and the evidence relied upon in reaching any conclusions;
- conclusions reached;
- statement of the response from the individual who was the subject of the disclosure; and
- recommendations based on those conclusions to address any misconduct identified and any other matters arising during the investigation.
The Manager, Corporate Services and Governance will circulate final report outcomes relating to this policy to the Board. The whistleblower will also be informed of the outcome of the investigation in writing; however, NAATI may be unable to disclose particular details of the investigation.
If a whistleblower is not satisfied with NAATI’s investigation of the disclosure, they may write to NAATI seeking a review. As part of the review, NAATI will reconsider whether this policy has been adhered to and will also consider any new information. Reconsideration of the disclosure will be handled by a different staff member who was not involved in the original investigation. The review findings will be provided to the Board and the outcome of the review provided to the whistleblower in writing.
Policy review & approval
This policy is to be reviewed by NAATI management and the Audit and Risk Management Committee in line with NAATI’s Schedule of Policies and will be made available on NAATI’s website and staff intranet.
This policy was approved by the NAATI Board on 3 December 2021.