Protection for whistleblowers

WITH several councils being investigated by the Corruption and Crime Commission in recent years, Bayswater council is looking at ways of encouraging whistleblowers to come forward.

Deputy mayor Chris Cornish penned a motion asking the CEO to review their processes to ensure they have a “robust, transparent and fair whistleblowing process”.

“It’s all about implementing pretty much the best whistleblowing process that exists in the state,” said Cr Cornish at the December 11 council meeting.

He emphasised “no one likes to think impropriety is happening within an organisation they’re associated with, and I personally have no suspicion that anything untoward is occurring here”.

But he told colleagues “it does occur” in many organisations, “and whistleblowing is how things are discovered. The banking royal commission came about as a result of whistleblowers. Before that the North Metro Health scandal came about because of whistleblowers.”

Cr Cornish says they ought have a culture where “every single person is empowered to speak up,” and it should run from induction through to the exit interview.

Accusations

He said the details were still to be worked out, but his preference is for councillors to be made aware of “improper accusations that have been made”.

Cr Elli Petersen-Pik said change was needed.

“I’m not happy with the current process, which defines the CEO as the complaints officer. I think this needs to be someone outside the city, and someone neutral,” he said.

“I think this is one of those issues that we as a council can actually have, and should have, strong input into what’s happening in the city.

“As councillors, we do not have a clue what happens at the officer level, so we should ensure that there are processes to investigate any issues that might occur that we probably would not hear about.”

Currently minor misconduct can be reported either to the CEO, or direct to the Public Sector Commission. Serious misconduct is referred to the CCC.

The City of Perth uses an ombudsman, who is not an employee, to handle some complaint appeals.

Currently Perth council is suspended and in the midst of a CCC investigation.

Bayswater has not been in front of the CCC since 2009, when two staffers were found guilty of misconduct over some dodgy tenders.

Stirling had its own run in with the CCC over a major tender scandal that ran for several years, and resulted in one accused employee committing suicide before his hearing.

by DAVID BELL

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