If you lodge an environmental complaint with us, we don't disclose who you are without your permission. Your identity and other information can be kept confidential under:
This Act gives the Commissioner and her employees wide powers to gather information. They have a corresponding obligation to maintain secrecy in respect of all matters which come into their knowledge through their job, except where the information has to be released for purposes connected with either administering or carrying out the provisions of the Act.
When the Commissioner receives a concern from you, we will ask if you mind other organisations or public authorities knowing who you are. If you don't want to be identified then we will not say who you are when we make our enquiries.
Sometimes, because of the type of investigation and specific questions we must ask, the organisation or public authority will be able to guess who you are. There is very little we can do about this. However, in this situation we will "neither confirm nor deny" your identity.
If your concern is raised under the Protected Disclosures Act, then special conditions about protecting your identity will apply.
What is the Protected Disclosures Act?
Sometimes known as "the whistle-blowers' Act", this Act came into force on 1 January 2001. It allows employees to disclose information about serious wrongdoing, in or by, their organisation. The Public Disclosures Act protects people's identity where possible. It may penalise an employer who takes action against them for making a protected disclosure.
What is serious wrongdoing?
Serious wrongdoing includes:
Who can I make a protected disclosure to?
If you work in a public sector organisation (which includes just about all organisations which are part of, or funded by, local or central government, including Crown entities) then the organisation must have internal procedures for dealing with allegations of serious wrongdoing.
Some private organisations also have internal procedures. You should follow these first, unless you believe on reasonable grounds that it is inadvisable to do so, e.g. if the head of the organisation is involved, or the matter is really urgent, or there are some other exceptional circumstances.
If you can't make the disclosure in accordance with the internal procedures or to the head of your organisation, then you can make it to the appropriate authority listed in the Public Disclosures Act.
The Commissioner is the appropriate authority where the protected disclosure is about serious wrongdoing that poses a serious risk to the environment.
When should I make a protected disclosure to the Commissioner?
You can make a protected disclosure to the Commissioner if:
If you wish to make a protected disclosure to the Commissioner, please telephone us on 04 471 1669. Ask to speak to our research manager who will advise you of the next steps to take.
Appropriate authorities may refer information between themselves if it will help to investigate your concerns. For instance, if the Commissioner believes that your concern is more appropriately dealt with by the Ombudsmen, then we may refer the investigation on. We will notify you if this happens, and the information will remain confidential between the parties.
Be careful though - if you do not reasonably believe the information you are disclosing is true or likely to be true, or if you know the information is false, you will not be protected by the Public Disclosures Act.
The Office of the Ombudsmen is responsible under the Public Disclosures Act for providing information and guidance to an employee who has made, or is considering making, a protected disclosure. You can call them on their freephone (0800 802 602) or visit their website.