Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act

Overview

The Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act (SNS 2010, c. 42) protects public servants who disclose wrongdoings to a supervisor, a designated officer or the province’s Ombudsman in writing.

If the wrongdoing constitutes an imminent risk of substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of an individual or to the environment and there is not enough time to follow internal procedures, the employee may make the disclosure to the public. However, that disclosure should be made to an appropriate law enforcement agency first.

Alongside employees, corporations majorly owned by the Province and organizations that deliver services on behalf of the Provinces, and are substantially publicly funded, are also protected under the Act.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects public servants  who, while acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, have disclosed in writing information regarding a wrongdoing to their supervisor, a designated officer or the Province’s Ombudsman s .31, s. 6.

This Act applies to wrongdoings s. 3 as it relates to government bodies, and includes: 

  • a contravention of Provincial or Federal statutes or regulations if the contravention related to official activities of the employee or any public funds or assets;
  • a misuse or gross mismanagement of public funds or assets;
  • an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons or the environment; or
  • directing or counselling someone to commit one of the previously listed wrongdoings.

A designated official s. 3 is the senior official designated to receive and deal with disclosures under this Act. 

Disclosure to the public

As an exception, if on reasonable grounds, an employee believes that there is insufficient time to make a disclosure based on an imminent risk of substantial and specific danger to the life, health, and safety to the public, the employee may disclose to the public if:

  • the employee has first notified appropriate law enforcement authority, or, in the case of a health-related issue, the chief provincial public health officer; and
  • subject to any direction that the agency or officer considers necessary in the public interest s. 8.

Law enforcement must be notified before the disclosure. Immediately following a public disclosure, the employee must disclose the matter to their supervisor or designated officer s. 8(2).

Disclosures must be made in writing within 12 months of the employee becoming aware of the wrongdoing s. 9.

Employees cannot disclose information related to deliberations of the Executive Council or any of its committees, including advice, policy considerations, or draft regulations; or information that is protected by solicitor-client privilege s. 11.

Who is eligible for protection?

The Act protects public sector employees, as any person currently or formerly employed by a government body.

Under this Act, government bodies s. 3 include government departments, offices and public service entities set out in the Schedule to this Act and includes a body designated as a government body in the regulations and includes an agency, board or commission or an education entity.

How are whistleblowers protected?

An employee or former employee who believes a reprisal has been taken against them may make a complaint to the Labour Standards Tribunal s. 32(1).

Any individual who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against an employee who has made a protected disclosure is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of maximum $10,000 s. 35.

The identity of the whistleblower is not to be disclosed during an investigation s .11.

How should disclosures be made?

Be careful! Despite presenting some challenges for follow ups, one of the best protections for whistleblowers is their anonymity. Be cautious when providing any information through electronic means, especially emails! Read the security tips section.

When considering whether to make a disclosure, the employee may request advice from the designated officer or the Ombudsman s. 5(1). The designated official or Ombudsman may require this request to be in writing s. 5(2).

A disclosure must be in writing and must include the following information, if known:

  • a description of the wrongdoing;
  • the name of the person or persons alleged to
    • have committed the wrongdoing, or
    • about to commit the wrongdoing;
  • the date of the wrongdoing; and
  • whether the wrongdoing has already been disclosed and a response received s.7.

The Disclosure of Wrongdoing Form should be used to report (disclose) wrongdoing. When completing the form, employees must only provide information that is necessary to report (disclose) on the wrongdoing

For enquiries related to the public interest disclosure of wrongdoing, email: psc-policy-inquiries@novascotia.ca

Reporting a Wrongdoing to the Office of the Ombudsman: An employee may also choose to report (disclose) wrongdoing directly to the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman has established a Disclosure of Wrongdoing Unit and enquiry line to provide a confidential way for people to get information regarding the disclosure process. Please note that the Ombudsman encourages employees to try and resolve the complaint by contacting the government body involved. If there are internal avenues of appeal, employees are encouraged to use them before the complaint is reviewed.

There is a Disclosure of Wrongdoing unit and Inquiry Line to provide a confidential avenue for individuals to obtain information regarding the disclosure of a wrongdoing. Government employees may access the Wrongdoing Inquiry Line to obtain information and speak with an Ombudsman Representative.

The form can be submitted online, by email (ombudsman@novascotia.ca) or by phone (toll free: 1-800-670-1111).

More information can be found at: https://novascotia.ca/ombu/disclosures.htm.