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Protected Disclosures



 

External Procedures for Making a Protected Disclosure to the

Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Authority

Introduction

The HEA has in place External Procedures to support workers who wish to make a protected disclosure to the CEO of the HEA as a prescribed person in accordance with the provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 as amended by the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 hereafter referred to as ‘the Act’.

Under Section 7 of the Act and Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 367 of 2020 the CEO of the HEA is the Prescribed Person to receive disclosures of relevant wrongdoings as follows:

  1. a) All matters relating to the planning and development of higher education and research in the State.

(b) All matters relating to funding for universities and certain institutions of higher education designated under the HEA Act.

Qualifying for Protection under the Protected Disclosures Act

To qualify for protection under the Protected Disclosures Act, a worker – defined in the legislation – must make a protected disclosure in the manner set out in the Act.

A protected disclosure is a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of a worker, tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings; came to the attention of the worker in a work-related context; and is disclosed in the manner prescribed in the Act.

When making a protected disclosure to a prescribed person, there are additional requirements.

The worker must reasonably believe that the matter reported falls within the area of responsibility of the prescribed person, is a relevant wrongdoing, as set out in the Act, and the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true.

Contact Details

The contact details are:

 

 

Postal address:Chief Executive Officer

Higher Education Authority

3 Shelbourne Buildings

Crampton Avenue

Shelbourne Road

Dublin D04 C2Y6
Phone:+353 1 2315008

(Dedicated Dial In - to secure recorded voicemail
Subsequent follow up telephone conversations are not recorded)
Email:protecteddisclosures@hea.ie
(a dedicated email address to receive protected disclosures)

Making a Report

The External Procedures for Making a Protected Disclosure to the CEO of the HEA sets out how disclosures should be made to the HEA.

You can make a disclosure to the HEA in writing and orally. You can make an oral report:

  • by telephone or through other voice messaging systems; and
  • upon request, by means of a physical meeting.

It is recommended that, at a minimum, reports should include the following details:

  1. that the report is a protected disclosure and is being made under the Procedures
  2. the reporting person’s name, position in the organisation, place of work and confidential contact details; the date of the alleged wrongdoing (if known) or the date it commenced/was identified
  3. whether or not the alleged wrongdoing is still ongoing
  4. whether the alleged wrongdoing has already been disclosed and if so, to whom, when, and what action was taken
  5. information in respect of the alleged wrongdoing (what is occurring / has occurred and how)
  6. the name of any person(s) allegedly involved in the alleged wrongdoing (if any name is known and the worker considers it necessary to report the wrongdoing disclosed)
  7. any other relevant information

Following up Reports

When a disclosure of alleged wrongdoing is made, the Chief Executive of the HEA shall assign the matter to the Designated Person(s).

The HEA will acknowledge, in writing, to the reporting person, receipt of the report within 7 calendar days of its receipt.

A screening assessment of the disclosure will be conducted having regard to the Act and these Procedures. The HEA Procedures set out a number of potential outcomes of an assessment of a report of alleged wrongdoing. The reporting person will be informed as soon as practicable if any of these outcomes arise and the reason for the decision.

The HEA will provide feedback to the reporting person on the progress of their disclosure within 3 months of the date of acknowledgement of disclosure (6 months in duly justified cases due to the particular complexity of the report.) You can also write to the HEA to request 3 monthly updates until the procedure is closed.

Protection of Confidentiality

The HEA will protect the identities of both the reporting person and any person concerned who is referred to in the disclosure, in accordance with the provisions of Sections 16 and 17 of the Act.

The HEA will prevent access by unauthorised persons to personal data processed for the purposes of the Act and ensure it is only disclosed to authorised persons.

Certain data subject access rights under data protection law can be restricted to ensure complete protection of the identity of reporting persons and persons concerned and to prevent any efforts to impede, frustrate or slow down follow-up on reports received.

Protection of Disclosers against Penalisation

Reporting persons should not be penalised for making a protected disclosure and the Act provides remedies for those workers who are penalised for making a protected disclosure. These are

  • a complaint to your employer. This should normally be to the HR function, unless this is inappropriate in the circumstances.
  • a claim before the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months of the penalisation and
  • a claim for injunctive relief in the Circuit Court within 21 days of last instance of penalisation.

Independent advice is available from Transparency International Ireland which has a Speak Up helpline where reporting persons can seek advice – including legal advice – on making a protected disclosure or with regard to a claim of penalisation for having made a protected disclosure. Their contact details are further down this page.

Protection from Prosecution and Civil Liability

Section 15 of the Act sets out the conditions whereby making a protected disclosure does not constitute a criminal offence for a breach of confidentiality. Section 14 of the Act sets out how there is immunity on disclosers from civil liability except in defamation cases.

Further Support and Advice

Workers are advised to seek independent advice before and after they make a report of wrongdoing.

Comprehensive and independent information and advice is available from Transparency International Ireland. They have a Speak Up helpline where reporting persons can seek advice – including legal advice – on making a protected disclosure. You can contact Transparency International Ireland:

  • on their Speak Up Helpline on 1800 844 866;
  • E-mailadmin@transparency.ie;
  • securely online at speakup.ie; or
  • by using the Signal app to send an encrypted message at 087 3859996 (www.signal. org).

 

Protected Disclosures Annual Report

Under section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014:

(1) Every public body shall prepare and publish not later than 30 June in each year a report in relation to the immediately preceding year in a form which does not enable the identification of the persons involved containing information relating to the matters specified in subsection (2).

(2) Those matters are—

  • the number of protected disclosures made to the public body,
  • the action (if any) taken in response to those protected disclosures, and
  • such other information relating to those protected disclosures and the action taken as may be requested by the Minister from time to time.

The HEA annual report for 2023, can be downloaded below.

 

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2023

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2022

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2021

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2020

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2019

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2018

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2017

Protected Disclosures Annual Report 2016

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