Amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act apply to Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA’s) and their offices.
What does this mean?
MLAs and their offices are now included in the Act. Employees within offices of MLAs are protected when they disclosure wrongdoing to their Designated Officer or to the Public Interest Commissioner, or when they seek advice from their supervisor, their designated officer or the Public Interest Commissioner. An employee may report wrongdoing relating to the MLA’s office, or relating to any department or public entity to which the Act applies.
How does the disclosure process work?
Under the Act, the Chief Officer within each public entity is responsible for establishing procedures for receiving and investigating disclosures of wrongdoing internally. Employees within offices of MLAs may make a disclosure of wrongdoing either by using these internal procedures or by making a disclosure directly to the Public Interest Commissioner. The Chief Officer for offices of MLAs is the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
Although MLAs are included in the Act and may be investigated for alleged wrongdoing, nothing in the Act permits an MLA to make a disclosure of wrongdoing. This avoids the Act being used for political means.
What is a reprisal?
A reprisal is any adverse employment action taken against an employee as a result of the employee seeking advice about making a disclosure, making a disclosure, declining to participate in a wrongdoing, or doing anything in accordance with the Act. A reprisal is an offence under the Act, and employees who suffer reprisal are able to obtain financial remedies through the Labour Relations Board.
MLAs need to ensure employees who come forward to report wrongdoing are supported and do not face reprisal action. Employees who believe they have been reprised against may report the reprisal directly to the Public Interest Commissioner.
What happens following an investigation?
Following an investigation by the Public Interest Commissioner, a report is prepared outlining the Commissioners findings, reasons for those findings, and any recommendations the Commissioner considers appropriate. The report is provided to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly who is responsible for taking corrective action when wrongdoing is found.
If, following an investigation, the Commissioner finds a reprisal occurred, the Commissioner is required to forward the finding to the Labour Relations Board to determine an appropriate remedy.
What do MLAs need to do?
Although MLAs have no specific duties under the Act, they are encouraged to work with the Public Interest Commissioner in promoting a culture that supports and encourages the reporting of wrongdoing in the public service. MLAs are encouraged to educate their staff about the Act, the process for making disclosures and the protection provisions that are afforded to employees. This can be accomplished by referring the employee to the internal procedures within the Legislative Assembly Office, or referring the employee to the Public Interest Commissioner’s website.
What protocols are in place respecting parliamentary privilege?
The Commissioner’s exercise of powers and performance of duties under the Act is limited by and must conform to the rights, immunities, privileges and powers of the Assembly and of members of the Assembly. The Public Interest Commissioner and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly establish protocols respecting the Commissioner’s exercise of powers and performance of duties under the Act relating to MLAs and their offices.