Considerations for requesting an exception under section 7(1) of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act (PIDA)
The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act requires in sections 5 and 6, that the chief executive of a government body, department, or office:
- Designate a senior official as a designated officer to receive and deal with disclosures by employees and officers;
- Establish procedures to manage disclosures. Specifically, procedures must be established for:
- receiving and reviewing disclosures, including setting time periods for action;
- investigating disclosures;
- respecting the confidentiality of information collected in relation to disclosures and investigations;
- protecting the identity of persons involved in the disclosure; and
- reporting the outcomes of investigations.
Section 7(1) of the act states the following:
7(1) Sections 5 and 6 do not apply to a chief executive who determines in consultation with the Ombudsman that it is not practical to apply those sections given the size of the department, government body or office for which the chief executive is responsible.
If an exception to the requirements in sections 5 and 6 applies, it should be noted that the chief executive officer would still remain responsible to ensure that:
- Information about the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act and procedures is widely communicated to the employees; and
- A report is prepared each year on any disclosures of wrongdoing that have been made to the government body or office.
Prior to a chief executive officer consulting the ombudsman regarding whether an exception is appropriate, it should be noted that the ombudsman will consider the following circumstances:
- Any entity with a total of ten (10) or less board members/officers/employees is generally considered to be too small to practically apply PIDA sections 5 and 6, and the ombudsman would normally agree that an exception is appropriate.
- Any entity with a total of eleven (11) to twenty-five (25) board members/officers/employees may be considered to be of a size for which it would be impractical to apply PIDA sections 5 and 6, depending on the organizational and management structure of the entity. The ombudsman may agree that an exception is appropriate based upon a review of the organization’s structure.
- The ombudsman would likely not agree that an exception is appropriate for an entity with more than twenty-five (25) board members/officers/employees.
A questionnaire has been prepared in order to assist chief executives in the consultative process with the ombudsman as to the appropriateness of an exception to sections 5 and 6 of PIDA. An entity could complete the attached questionnaire or use it as a guide in writing a letter to the Manitoba Ombudsman. Consultations regarding exceptions should be sent to the Manitoba Ombudsman at the following address:
750 – 500 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3C 3X1
Completed questionnaires may also be faxed to the Manitoba Ombudsman at 204-942-7803.
Once received, the ombudsman will consider the chief executive’s submission and will reply in writing as to whether he agrees or disagrees with the appropriateness of an exception to articles 5 and 6 of PIDA.