Current and past government employees who bring forward concerns about serious wrongdoing or who come under investigation have more protection, as the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) comes into force.
“This legislation protects whistleblowers if they speak up and requires that any investigation into allegations of serious wrongdoing will be administratively fair,” said David Eby, Attorney General, in a news release. “It supports high standards of integrity and accountability in our public service, which British Columbians expect and deserve.”
Government passed the Public Interest Disclosure Act in May 2018 in response to the ombudsperson’s 2017 report, Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters. The report made 41 recommendations aimed at preventing the recurrence of a similar situation in the public service, including a recommendation that government introduce whistleblower legislation. Government has accepted all the recommendations in the ombudsperson’s report.
PIDA allows whistleblowers to disclose concerns confidentially about issues that affect the public interest to designated officers within their organizations or to the Office of the Ombudsperson, an oversight body independent of government. The act protects employees who participate in PIDA investigations from reprisals, such as demotion or termination, and ensures employees under investigation are treated fairly. It also fosters transparency by requiring ministries and the ombudsperson to report the number of disclosures they receive and the results of any investigations they undertake each year.
PIDA is based on best practices from around the world. It currently applies to employees and former employees of all government ministries, including political staff, as well as employees in the independent offices of the legislature. Government plans to extend coverage of PIDA to other public sector organizations over the next five years, such as schools, universities, Crown corporations and health authorities.