Melbourne Business School About Us Whistleblower Policy

Whistleblower Policy

1. Purpose

The objective of this policy is to encourage reporting of wrongdoing that is of legitimate concern by providing a convenient and safe reporting mechanism, and protection for people who make serious wrongdoing disclosures.

2. Scope

This Policy applies to Melbourne Business School (MBS). It encompasses all Directors and personnel including executives, managers, staff, contractors, consultants and volunteers. It extends to students, clients and suppliers.

3. Policy Statement

MBS is committed to the highest standards of conduct and ethical behavior and to promoting and supporting a culture of honest and ethical behavior, corporate compliance and good corporate governance. People who have a working relationship with MBS are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong. However, they may not wish to speak up for fear of appearing disloyal or may be concerned about being victimised or subject to reprisals for reporting wrongdoing.

MBS encourages the reporting of any instances of suspected unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable conduct involving MBS and provides protections and measures so that those persons who make a report may do so confidentially and without fear of intimidation, disadvantage or reprisal.

When a person makes a disclosure:

  • Their identity will remain confidential according to their wishes
  • They will be protected from reprisal, discrimination, harassment or victimization for making the disclosure
  • An independent internal inquiry or investigation will be conducted
  • Issues identified from the inquiry/investigation will be resolved and/or rectified
  • They will be informed about the outcome
  • Any retaliation for having made the disclosure will be treated as serious wrongdoing under this Policy

4. Definitions

Terms used in this Policy are:

Whistleblowing: Disclosure by (or for) a witness of actual or suspected wrongdoing

Whistleblower:  A person who reports wrongdoing in accordance with this Policy

Wrongdoing: Conduct that includes but is not limited to: 

  • Breaches legislation, regulations or is otherwise illegal (including whistleblower laws, corporations law, theft, drug sale/use, violence or threatened violence or criminal damage against property)
  • Is an offence against any other law of the Commonwealth that is punishable by imprisonment  Is corrupt or is an abuse of public trust or a fiduciary position
  • Seriously undermines educational integrity
  • Is dishonest or fraudulent
  • Perverts the course of justice
  • Unreasonably endangers health and safety or the environment
  • Is maladministration (e.g. unjust, based on improper motives, is unreasonable, oppressive or negligent)
  • Is serious or substantial waste (including School money or School property)
  • Is gross mismanagement or repeated breaches of administrative procedures
  • Has financial or non-financial loss detrimental to the interests of MBS
  • Is an unethical breach of the Code of Conduct
  • Is serious improper conduct or an improper state of affairs In this policy the singular can be plural and vice versa.

5. Responsibilities

5.1 Whistleblowers

Protection is available to Whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing that is made with reasonable grounds to believe it is true.

To ensure that all employees are treated fairly and that resources are not wasted, protection is not available where the disclosure is:

  • Found to be trivial or vexatious in nature with no substance. This will be treated in the same manner as a false report and may itself constitute wrongdoing
  • Unsubstantiated allegations which are found to have been made maliciously, or knowingly to be false.These will be viewed seriously and may be subject to disciplinary action that could include dismissal, termination of service or cessation of a service or client relationship

A Whistleblower must provide information to assist any inquiry/investigation of the disclosed wrongdoing.

Making a disclosure may not protect the Whistleblower from the consequences flowing from involvement in the wrongdoing itself. A person’s liability for their own conduct is not affected by their report of that conduct under this policy. However active cooperation in the investigation, an admission and remorse may be taken into account when considering disciplinary or other action.

Whilst a Whistleblower may be implicated in the wrongdoing they must not be subjected to any actual or threatened retaliatory action or victimisation in reprisal for making a report under this policy.

5.2 Whistleblower Protection Officer

If the Whistleblower wishes, a Whistleblower Protection Officer may be appointed who is an officer, senior manager or employee to support and provide protection to the Whistleblower according to this policy.

The Whistleblower Protection Officer must have a direct reporting line to an Executive Leader from an area of the organisation that is independent of line management in the area that is the subject of the report of wrongdoing.

The Whistleblower Protection Officer will provide mentoring and other support deemed necessary by the Whistleblower Protection Officer.

The Whistleblower Protection Officer is responsible for keeping the Whistleblower informed of the progress and outcomes of the inquiry/investigation subject to considerations of privacy of those against whom a disclosure has been made.

5.3 Whistleblower Governance Officers

A Whistleblower Governance Officer is a person named in Appendix 1 of this policy as such and is responsible for receiving whistleblower disclosures of wrongdoing and oversighting resolution.

Whistleblower Governance Officers must (after reasonable preliminary inquiry):

  • If the Whistleblower agrees, appoint a Whistleblower Protection Officer to provide support to the whistleblower
  • Arrange for an inquiry/investigation into the disclosures made by the Whistleblower
  • Ensure appropriate government agencies are notified about Whistleblower events where required
  • Maintain a Whistleblower Register for trend analysis and to identify systemic issues requiring attention
  • Be satisfied that action taken in response to the inquiry/investigation is appropriate to the circumstances
  • Provide governance oversight over any inquiry/investigation into retaliatory action taken against the Whistleblower

Alternatively, if the disclosure contains allegations against any MBS Executive or where the Whistleblower has a reasonable belief that the Whistleblower Governance Officers are not sufficiently independent a report may be made to:

Chair of Finance, Risk & Audit Committee (FRAC)
Chair of MBS Board

In which case the above mentioned will become the Governance Officer and will induct the appropriate officials of MBS to assist in fulfilling their duties.

5.4 Investigator

MBS will investigate all matters reported under this policy as soon as practicable after the matter has been reported.

The Investigator is appointed by the Governance Officer and may be internal or external to MBS.

The Investigator must have internal independence of line management in the area affected by the wrongdoing disclosure.The internal investigator may be the Company Secretary or the Executive Director People & Culture.

The Whistleblower may have grounds to object to an internal appointee to the role of Investigator. If an impartial internal investigator cannot be appointed an external investigator will be appointed.

The investigation will be conducted in an objective and fair manner and is as reasonable and appropriate having regard to the nature of the disclosure and the circumstances. Where a report is submitted anonymously, MBS will conduct the investigation and its enquiries based on the information provided to it. However, anonymity can sometimes prevent MBS from taking the issue further if MBS is not able to obtain further information from the source of the report.

The Investigator may second the expertise of other officers in MBS to assist in the investigation and may seek the advice of internal or external experts as required.

5.5 Managers

All managers who receive disclosure about wrongdoing must notify the Whistleblower Governance Officer and maintain confidentiality about it.

6. Policy Application

6.1 Reporting a Disclosure

6.1.1 Internal Whistleblowers
(current or former Directors, employees, volunteers, contractors or Consultants)

Internal Whistleblowers are encouraged to report their concerns to their line manager or their line manager’s manager to seek an immediate response. Where the internal Whistleblower believes this is not appropriate, then an alternative reporting mechanism is available.

6.1.2 External Whistleblowers
(other people with a relationship with MBS e.g. students, alumni, clients and suppliers)

Where an external Whistleblower is reluctant to report it to their direct contact or line management for fear of retribution, they can report their concerns to a higher level of management than the person in MBS that they ordinarily deal with. There may be a simple explanation that they had not considered. Where this is not appropriate, an alternative reporting mechanism is available.

6.1.3 Alternative Reporting

Alternative reporting to normal channels are available where:

  • The normal reporting channel is considered inappropriate to the circumstances;
  • MBS line management was notified but failed to deal with it or;
  • The person or organization disclosing wrongdoing is concerned about possible retaliation.

In any of these circumstances, an internal or external Whistleblower may provide the report of wrongdoing directly to:

  • A Whistleblower Governance Officer;
  • Chair of FRAC
  • Chair of MBS Board
  • A person or entity who is eligible to receive the disclosure under the Corporations Act 2001

6.1.4 Other Complaint Mechanisms

This policy is in addition to:

  • Grievance procedures for employees, which is for all staff to raise any matters they may have in relation to their work or their work environment, other persons, or decisions affecting their employment. This policy does not replace other reporting structures such as those for dispute resolution, discrimination, victimisation or matters relating to workplace bullying or harassment
  • Standard complaint mechanisms for clients or volunteers
  • Any exercising of rights under the terms of their contract by contractors and suppliers

6.1.5 Anonymous Reporting

Anonymous reports of wrongdoing are accepted under this policy. Anonymous reports have significant limitations that may inhibit a proper and appropriate inquiry or investigation. These limitations include the inability to provide feedback on the outcome and/or to gather additional particulars to assist the inquiry/investigation. Specific protection mechanisms may be difficult to enforce if you choose to remain confidential.

6.2 Protection

Not all disclosures of serious wrongdoing are protected at law. To meet MBS’s philosophy of accepting tip-offs from anyone, MBS adopts the principle of providing protection to people or organisations with a relationship (or a former relationship as an officer, employee or contractor) with MBS: •

  • At least to the extent of protection at law; and
  • A brief summary of legal protection is at Appendix 2.

6.3 Confidentiality

MBS will not disclose a whistleblower’s identity unless:

  • It is necessary to further an investigation and the Whistleblower consents to the disclosure, and/or
  • The disclosure is required or authorised by law.

When a report is investigated it may be necessary to reveal its substance to people such as other MBS personnel, external persons involved in the investigation process and, in appropriate circumstances, law enforcement agencies.

It will be necessary to disclose the facts and substance of a report to a person who may be the subject of the report as it is essential for natural justice to prevail. Although confidentiality is maintained, in some circumstances, the source of the reported issue may be obvious to a person who is the subject of a report.

MBS will take reasonable precautions to store any records relating to a report of wrongdoing securely and to restrict access to authorized persons only.

6.4 Retaliation

MBS will not tolerate any retaliatory action or threats of retaliatory action against a Whistleblower, or against a Whistleblower’s colleagues, employer (if a contractor, consultant or supplier) or relatives. For example, a Whistleblower must not be disadvantaged or victimised for having made the report by:

  • Dismissal or termination of services or supply
  • Demotion
  • Forced change of role or responsibilities
  • Discrimination, victimisation or harassment
  • Current or future bias
  • Threats of any of the above Any such retaliatory action or victimisation in reprisal for a disclosure made under this policy will be treated as serious misconduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include dismissal. In some circumstance it may be illegal; in which case MBS will notify Police.

6.5 Investigation

All reports of alleged or suspected wrongdoing made under this policy to a Whistleblower Governance Officer will be properly assessed, and if appropriate, inquired into or independently investigated - with an objective of gathering evidence relating to the claims made by the Whistleblower. That evidence may substantiate or refute the claims made.

Investigations must be conducted in a fair and independent manner.

6.6 Disclosure Management

MBS recognises that individuals against whom a report is made must also be supported during the handling and investigation of the wrongdoing report. MBS takes reasonable steps to treat fairly any person who is the subject of a report, particularly during the assessment and investigation process in accordance with an established support protocol which may be extended to include appointing an independent senior officer in MBS to provide support.

Where a person is identified as being suspected of possible wrongdoing, but preliminary inquiries determines that the suspicion is baseless or unfounded and that no formal investigation is warranted, then the Whistleblower will be informed of this outcome and the matter laid to rest and deemed closed.

The Whistleblowing Governance Officer will decide whether or not the person named in the allegation should be informed that a suspicion was raised and found to be baseless upon preliminary review. This decision will be based on a desire to preserve the integrity of a person so named, so as to enable workplace harmony to continue unfettered and to protect the Whistleblower where it is a bona fide disclosure.

Where an investigation does not substantiate the report, the fact that the investigation has been carried out, the results of the investigation and the identity of the person who is the subject of the report must be handled confidentially and sensitively.

Generally, where an investigation to the allegation(s) is conducted, and the Investigator believes there may be a case for an individual to respond, the Investigator must ensure that the person who is the subject of a disclosure:

  • Is informed of the substance of the allegations;
  • Is given a fair and reasonable opportunity to answer the allegations before the investigation is finalised;
  • Has their response set out fairly in the Investigator’s report; and
  • Is informed about the substance of any adverse conclusions in the Investigator’s report that may affect them.

Where adverse conclusions are made in an investigator’s report about an individual, that individual has a right to respond to those conclusions prior to any action being taken by the Melbourne Business School against them. MBS will give its full support to a person who is the subject of a report where the allegations contained in the report are found to be inaccurate.

7. Failure to comply

Any breach of this Policy may result in disciplinary action that could result in severance from the organisation.

8. Related Policies

Other organisational policies that should be read in conjunction with this policy and with MBS’s ethical value principles include:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Complaints Policy
  • Performance Review Policy

9. General Information

Approved by: Deputy Dean
Responsible Policy owner: Executive Director People & Culture and Chief Operating Officer Chief Operating Officer
Contact area: Commencement date 11/12/2019
Approval Date: 28 January 2020
The Whistleblower policy can be found on the School website: Melbourne Business School - Whistleblower Policy

10. Review Date

Melbourne Business School Commits to Review this Policy in:  11/12/2021
Review Period: Every Two Years

11. Key Words

Whistleblower
Wrongdoing

Appendix 1

Current officials for this policy Whistleblowers Governance Officers

1) Executives

Executives responsible for People & Culture functions and Risk & Governance and

  • Executive Director, People & Culture
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Associate Dean, Faculty

2) Board Directors

Finance, Risk & Audit Committee
Chair of the Finance, Audit & Risk Committee: a.kimmitt@mbs.edu

Melbourne Business School Ltd (MBS) Board
Chair of the MBS Ltd Board:  r.barker@mbs.edu

Appendix 2 - Legal Protection of Disclosers

(Extract from Whistleblowers Policies Regulations Guide (RG))

a) Identity protection (confidentiality) (see RG 270.90-RG 270.94);

b) Protection from detrimental acts or omissions (see RG 270.95-RG 270.101);

c) Compensation and other remedies (see RG 270.102-G 270.103);

d) Civil, criminal and administrative liability protection (see RG 270.104-RG 20.105) and

e) Tax Whistleblowers regime (see RG 270.02)