POLITICS

Ombudsman welcomes passage of Protected Disclosures Bill

Thursday 12 May 2022, 5:55AM
By Office of the Ombudsman
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WELLINGTON CITY

The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the passing of new whistleblower legislation will help reinforce New Zealand’s international reputation as a free and transparent society.

Mr Boshier says he welcomes the passage of the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill (2020) through its third reading in Parliament today.

"Insiders are usually the first to know about serious wrongdoing in the workplace. Every worker in New Zealand needs to know if they make a disclosure it will be taken seriously and action will be taken."

Mr Boshier says the new legislation updates the original Protected Disclosures Act 2000.

"New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to introduce legislation that protects people who report concerns of serious wrongdoing in their workplace. But it was apparent that the original law wasn’t working as well as it should for either employees or organisations.

"I am pleased that Parliament has taken action because the law was definitely in need of an update."

Mr Boshier says the new legislation builds on the previous provisions and provides some additional protections for whistleblowers. It also streamlines the disclosure process.

"Already under the existing law, special provisions allow the Ombudsman to review and guide any public sector organisation that’s carrying out an investigation of a protected disclosure.

"I’m also one of the ‘appropriate authorities’ that can receive disclosures directly and investigate them-and I provide guidance to employees about handling and making protected disclosures.

"There are some important changes for my office under the new legislation which comes into effect in July.

"My advisory role is expanded to provide independent information and guidance to anyone. This includes both past and present employees, organisations (both public sector and others) and third parties.

"Whistleblowers will now be able to raise matters directly with me and other appropriate authorities on a range of subjects without first having to complain within their organisation.

"I am expecting more agencies will come to me for advice or ask that I become involved. I welcome this."

Mr Boshier says robust corruption-fighting laws are important for New Zealand’s economy and international standing.

"New Zealand is rated at the top of the world along with Denmark and Finland, in terms of trust and transparency. It demonstrates our maturity as a nation to retain a steady top ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index for close to two decades."

Mr Boshier says it is important for people to feel they can raise these serious issues in confidence and that they won’t be punished for bringing them to light.

"Our reputation as an honest society free from corruption depends on it."