Chief Executives Officers from government agencies who fail to notify the Corruption and Crime Commission of suspected misconduct in their organisation may themselves be guilty of misconduct.
CCC Corruption Prevention Manager Carolyn Jones said the obligation to report misconduct under the CCC Act was paramount and overrode any other legislation that might require them to maintain confidentiality.
"A failure by a CEO to report could be seen as corrupt conduct where the CEO is using his or her authority to actually hide something. We would take that very seriously," she said.
Ms Jones told an Understanding Misconduct workshop for senior managers in Perth that if agencies were not sure if a particular action constituted misconduct they should report it anyway.
"When in doubt, report," she said. "Chief executives, the heads of every public sector agency including local governments and universities, have a legal obligation to notify the Commission of any suspected misconduct in their organisation and, in fact, any misconduct they might hear about in another government organisation. This obligation overrides the obligation to confidentiality under the Public Interest Disclosure Act."
Ms Jones said most agencies had internal processes for staff to report suspected misconduct. But she said this, while preferable, did not prevent individual officers from approaching the CCC, particularly if they were concerned they might suffer a negative consequence at work.
She stressed the CCC Act provided specific protection for complainants. "Anybody who causes a detriment or threatens in any way a person who reports misconduct is committing an offence under the CCC Act. It is very serious. We haven't used that part of our legislation often but we have used it on a couple of occasions when we've become aware that people who complained or reported misconduct had suffered some harassment or persecution in their agency. It is a serious matter."
Ms Jones said the reporting threshold for agencies was a reasonable suspicion of misconduct. "It's not about waiting until you have proof. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that something may involve misconduct then that is the point where the CEO must contact us. They can't wait until they have done preliminary investigations to determine whether or not it is fact. That is an outcome later but the notification obligation exists before that."