Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (656)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

656. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the safeguards in place to protect the identity of the person who has made the protected disclosure in instances in which protected disclosures are shared with external consultants; if the person who made the protected disclosure is notified in advance; if the person's consent is required to share the disclosure with external consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36200/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department engages external service providers to carry out independent assessments and investigations on disclosures received, relying on an Office of Government Procurement national framework and contractual terms which clearly set out the protections provided to persons under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.  This includes a confidentiality clause.  

Section 16(1) of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 provides that "a person to whom a protected disclosure is made, and any person to whom a protected disclosure is referred in the performance of that person’s duties, shall not disclose to another person any information that might identify the person by whom the protected disclosure was made".  The Act further provides at section 16(2)(c) that this restriction does not apply if "the person to whom the disclosure was made or referred reasonably believes that disclosing any such information is necessary for the effective investigation of the relevant wrongdoing concerned."  The Department limits the extent of communication to a limited number of officials and external assessors/investigators to ensure that confidentiality is maintained.  

As a matter of general practice, my Department informs the discloser of any external assessment/investigation in advance of its commencement and requests permission from the discloser to share their contact details with the assessor/investigator.  The discloser is also provided with the Terms of Reference for the investigation, in advance of its commencement.