Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction

The Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act (PIDWA) was proclaimed in effect on December 20, 2011. The Act and the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Regulations give employees of government bodies set out in Schedule A of the Act (see Appendix A below) a clear process for disclosing concerns about wrongdoing in government. They also provide protection from reprisal for employees who bring forth a disclosure in good faith.

The Act was amended by private members’ bill on November 10, 2016. The changes to the Act broadened its scope to include school boards, crown corporations, and agencies, boards, and commissions of government.

The Act is not intended to deal with all matters and concerns that employees may have. This Act is the avenue for dealing with specific wrongdoings as defined in the Act. Other legislation such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Human Rights Act, corporate human resources policies and the grievance process for union employees provide additional avenues of redress for government employees that may be more appropriate depending on the circumstances.

Questions and Answers

1.   What employees are covered under PIDWA?

PIDWA applies to all employees and former employees of government departments and other government bodies, agencies, boards and commissions, including school boards as set out in the Act. (See Appendix A and B below)

2.   What is a “wrongdoing”?

The following are defined as wrongdoings under PIDWA:

  1. 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
  2. a misuse or gross mismanagement of public funds or assets,
  3. an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons or the environment, or
  4. directing or counselling someone to commit one of the above

3.   What is a “disclosure”?

A “disclosure” means a formal complaint in writing of a wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing made in good faith by an employee to their supervisor, their designated officer or the Ombudsman.

4.   Is there a time limit for when I can disclose a potential wrongdoing?

Yes, disclosures must be made within 12 months of becoming aware of the potential wrongdoing.

5.   What if I am not sure whether the matter is a wrongdoing or not?

You may seek advice from your designated officer or the Ombudsman.

6.   What do I have to do to make disclosure of wrongdoing?

If you think a wrongdoing has been or is about to be committed, you may make a complaint in writing to your supervisor, your designated officer or the ombudsman that sets out the following information, if known:

  • description of the wrongdoing
  • date of the wrongdoing
  • name of the person(s) alleged to have committed or about to commit the wrongdoing
  • whether a disclosure has already been made on this wrongdoing and any response received to that disclosure

A standard Disclosure Form has been developed and can be found here.

7.   What happens after I make the disclosure?

If a disclosure is made to your supervisor, he/she must forward the disclosure to designated officer.

The designated officer will review the disclosure to determine:

  • Whether the disclosure pertains to their government body. If not, the designated officer must forward to the designated officer of the appropriate government body. The designated officer will inform you of that before forwarding.
  • Whether there is a conflict of interest that requires him/her to forward on to the Ombudsman. An example would be if the disclosure was in some way related to the designated officer or the Deputy. The designated officer will inform you of that before forwarding.
  • If it is determined that it is appropriate for the designated officer to deal with the disclosure, then the designated officer will determine if the disclosure meets the requirements of a wrongdoing as defined in the Act and has been made in good faith.
  • If the disclosure meets the definition and was made in good faith, the designated officer will then investigate the matter on their own or will engage an outside investigator to do so.
  • A report and any recommendations will be prepared following the investigation.
  • You will be advised of the outcome of the investigation when it has been completed.

If the disclosure is made to, or referred to the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman will assess the disclosure in order to decide whether to investigate or not. Reasons for not investigating are set out in the Act.

If the Ombudsman undertakes an investigation of the disclosure, he/she will prepare a report and any recommendations following the investigation. You will be advised of the outcome.

8.   What is a “reprisal”?

A “reprisal” could be any of the following actions that you believe was taken against you because you asked for advice about a disclosure, made a disclosure or cooperated in an investigation of a disclosure:

  1. a disciplinary measure
  2. a demotion
  3. termination of employment
  4. any measure that adversely affects an employee's employment or working conditions, or
  5. a threat to do any of the above.

9.  How does the Act protect me from reprisals?

If you believe that a reprisal has been taken against you, you may file a complaint in writing to the Chair of the Labor Board providing:

  • your name and contact information
  • contact information of the person you believe has taken a reprisal against you
  • the date(s) of the alleged reprisal, the particulars of the reprisal, and whether you have also complained to other bodies or filed a grievance on the same matter

In addition, the taking of a reprisal is an offence under the Act. Anyone found guilty of taking such action is liable on summary conviction for a fine of up to $10,000.

10.  Do I have any obligations and responsibilities in making a disclosure?

If you make a disclosure you must do so in good faith, not maliciously or for an ulterior motive. You must maintain confidentiality as much as possible. You must co-operate with any investigations undertaken in relation to disclosures.

11.  Is there any information that I cannot disclose?

You cannot disclose information that is related to Cabinet or Cabinet committee work or information that is protected by solicitor-client privilege. Also, if the disclosure involves personal or confidential information, you must take all reasonable precautions to ensure no more information is disclosed than is necessary to make the disclosure.

12.  Can I disclose directly to the public?

If you have reason to believe that a wrongdoing presents “an imminent risk of substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons or to the environment” and there is not enough time to make a disclosure to your designated officer or the Ombudsman, you may make a disclosure to the public.

Before making this public disclosure you must first make the disclosure to the police or the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health if the matter is health-related and you must follow any directions given by them.

13.  Will my identity be protected?

Your identity and the identity of others involved in the disclosure process, as well as the confidentiality of any information collected, will be protected to the fullest extent possible. However, investigations of a disclosure of wrongdoing must also follow the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice. This means for example that in the case of an alleged wrongdoer, they have the right to know the information of the case against them and be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Everyone involved in any way in a disclosure is responsible for maintaining confidentiality.

14.  Where can I find more information?

Other documents, links to PIDWA and the regulations can be found on the main Public Service Commission Disclosure of Wrongdoing page.

Appendix A: Departments, Offices and Public Service Entities covered by the Act

  • Chief Information Office
  • Communications Nova Scotia
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage
  • Department of Community Services
  • Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Environment
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • Department of Health and Wellness
  • Department of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Labour and Advanced Education
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Department of Seniors
  • Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
  • Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal
  • Disabled Persons Commission
  • Elections Nova Scotia
  • Emergency Management Office
  • Executive Council Office
  • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Office
  • Government House
  • Legal Aid Commission
  • Legislative Expenses
  • Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
  • Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission
  • Nova Scotia Pension Agency
  • Nova Scotia Police Commission
  • Nova Scotia Securities Commission
  • Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board
  • Office of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Office of Acadian Affairs
  • Office of African Nova Scotia Affairs
  • Office of Gaelic Affairs
  • Office of Immigration
  • Office of the Auditor General
  • Office of the Legislative Counsel
  • Office of the Ombudsman
  • Office of the Premier
  • Office of the Speaker
  • Public Prosecution Service
  • Public Service Commission
  • Sydney Tar Ponds Agency
  • Treasury and Policy Board
  • Voluntary Planning Board
  • Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal