Whistle-Blower Protection Policy

  1. Purpose

    The Whistleblower Protection Policy is one of several Policies and Codes that promotes a culture of compliance, honesty, and ethical behavior within the Sydney North Health Network (SNHN).

    An effective whistle-blower program can result in:

    • More effective compliance with relevant laws
    • More efficient fiscal management of the SNHN through, for example, improper tendering practices
    • A healthier and safe workplace environment through the reporting and action of unsafe practices
    • More efficient management
    • Improve morale within the SNHN
    • An enhanced perception and the reality that the SNHN is taking its governance obligations very seriously.
  1. Policy Statement

    SNHN is committed to encouraging staff to report any wrongdoing in good faith and in an environment, free from victimisation so that the Board and Senior Management can adequately manage risk and cultural issues within SNHN.

    Further, SNHN has a commitment to applicable laws and practices including the AS 8004-2003 “Whistle-blower protection for programs and services”.

    All staff will be made aware of the existence of this Policy upon commencement with SNHN via the on-boarding program.

  1. What is ‘reportable conduct’?

    Examples of “reportable conduct” include, but are not limited to the following:

    1. Dishonest or corrupt behaviour, including soliciting, accepting, or offering a bribe, facilitation payments or other such benefits;
    2. Fraudulent activity;
    3. Illegal (including theft, drug sale/use, violence or threatened violence and criminal damage against property);
    4. A breach of Commonwealth or State legislation or local authority By-laws (e.g. Trade Practices Act or Income Tax Assessment Act);
    5. Unethical including a breach of SNHN’s Policies and Codes;
    6. Other serious misconduct;
    7. Conduct endangering health or safety;
    8. Improper behavior relating to accounting, internal accounting controls, actuarial, or audit matters;
    9. Gross mismanagement;
    10. Serious and substantial waste; or
    11. Repeated instances of breach of administrative procedures.
  1. Process

    1. Reporting

      Where a whistleblower has reasonable grounds to suspect that information they disclose concerns reportable conduct (as described above) or an improper state of affairs or circumstances relating to SNHN, the whistle-blower may make a report in accordance with this section.

      SNHN protects those who qualify for protection as a whistleblower, including the protections under the Corporations Act. These protections are:

      • identity protection (confidentiality – see 4.5 below);
      • protection from detrimental acts or omissions;
      • compensation and remedies; and
      • civil, criminal and administrative liability protection (see 4.6 below).
    1. Anonymous Reporting

      A whistle-blower can choose to remain anonymous while making a disclosure, over the course of the investigation and after the investigation is finalised. A whistle-blower can refuse to answer questions that they feel could reveal their identity during follow-up conversations.

      In the alternative, a whistle-blower may choose to adopt a pseudonym for the purposes of their disclosure, and not use their true name.

    1. Process

      In the first instance, the whistleblower is encouraged to discuss their concerns about ‘reportable conduct’ with the relevant General Manager or Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or if the ‘reportable conduct’ concerns the General Manager, the CFO or an SNHN Director, the matters may be reported to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) instead. Where the CEO is thought to be implicated in such matters, the matter should be reported to the Chairperson of the SNHN Board.

      The whistleblower can follow up this discussion by submitting a written report to the relevant General Manager or CFO (or to the CEO or Board Chair in circumstances noted above) securely (using an external email) and outside of business hours.

      If a whistleblower prefers to report anonymously, they can submit a report anonymously using an anonymised email address or by mail to PO Box 1083, Chatswood 2057 and marking the outside of the envelope:

      “Strictly Confidential and for the attention of [Name of General Manager/CFO/CEO/ Board Chair] only”

      Where it is revealed that a person purporting to be a whistle-blower has made a false report of ‘reportable conduct’, then that conduct itself should be considered as a serious matter and render the person concerned, subject to disciplinary proceedings as provided by the SNHN policies and procedures.

    1. Unauthorised release of information received from a whistle-blower

      Information coming into the possession of a person from a whistle-blower must not be released without authority to any person who is not involved in the investigation or resolution of the matter. Similarly, the identity or any information that may lead to the identification of a whistle-blower must not be released to any person who is not involved in the investigation or resolution of the matter. Breach of this process will be considered by the SNHN as a serious disciplinary matter and will be dealt with accordingly.

    1. Confidentiality

      Any whistleblower that submits a report must treat the matter confidentially and in so doing, not discuss the matter with any employee other than in accordance with the following reporting guidelines.

      SNHN has a legal obligation to protect the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity. SNHN will not disclose the identity or information that is likely to lead to the identification of the whistle-blower unless the disclosure is:

      • to ASIC, APRA, or a member of the Australian Federal Police
      • to a legal practitioner (for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or legal representation about the whistleblower provisions in the Corporations Act); or
      • with the consent of the discloser.
    1. Immunity from Disciplinary Action

      SNHN will promote a culture that encourages the reporting of ‘reportable conduct’ by implementing a policy granting administrative immunity where a person acting in ‘good faith’ and who has not him/herself engaged in serious misconduct may be provided with immunity from disciplinary proceedings. SNHN has no power to offer any person any immunity against prosecution in the criminal jurisdiction.

  1. Investigation of reportable conduct

    Investigating reportable conduct will be conducted in a manner that is confidential, fair and objective. The investigation processes will vary depending on the nature of the wrongdoing and the amount of information provided.

    If the investigation results in a finding of wrongdoing by the person about whom a report has been made, SNHN will treat the finding as a serious disciplinary matter and consider appropriate disciplinary action.

  1. Definitions

    Whistle-blower is a person who is (or has been) in a relationship, such as an employment relationship, with SNHN including a Director, former or current employee or contractor of the SNHN who, whether anonymously or not, makes, attempts to make, or wishes to make, a report in connection with ‘reportable conduct’ and where the whistle-blower wishes to avail themselves of protection against reprisal for having made the report. The whistle-blower may or may not wish to remain anonymous. It also includes anonymous whistleblowers.

  1. References

    Australian Standard. AS 8004-2003. Whistle–blower Protection Programs for Entities. Corporate Governance Set. Council of Standards. Australia.

    Part 9.4AAA of Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)

    Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protection) Act 2019 (Cth)

  1. Approvals & Review

    Version Date Approved Owner (title) Approver (title) Next Review Date Comments
    01 December 2016 Lynelle Hales (CEO) December 2018 Initial creation
    02 27 May 2020 Lynelle Hales (CEO) Board May 2023 Approved by FARM on 19 May 2020
    03 14 November 2021 Lynelle Hales (CEO) Board October 2024 Reviewed by FARM on 16 November 2021