Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Questions (1183)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

1183. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice her views on whether it is appropriate that the Irish Prison Service should decide which matters in relation to protected disclosures in the service are relevant to be investigated by an external agency; her views on whether an agency independent of the Irish Prison Service should decide what is relevant or within the terms of reference; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13909/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Protected Disclosures Act was enacted in 2014 to allow employees to bring alleged wrongdoing to the attention of the appropriate authorities. The purpose of the Act is to afford important protections to persons making protected disclosures.

The Irish Prison Service has its own Protected Disclosures Policy in place, with independent external assessment of disclosures made. As the Deputy will note, the procedure followed differs from the assertions in his question. I am assured that all disclosures made to the IPS are assessed independently and objectively.

Overall responsibility for the policy and procedures of the Prison Service Protected Disclosure Policy rests with the Director General. Day-to-day responsibility for the Policy and Procedures is delegated to the Director of Corporate Services or her/his nominee and day-to-day responsibility for the administration of the Policy and Procedures is delegated to the Protected Disclosures Manager or her/his nominee. These processes are in line with the Act.

The Protected Disclosures Assessor is an independent, external expert appointed by the Irish Prison Service to conduct an assessment. When a disclosure of an alleged relevant wrongdoing is made, the Protected Disclosures Manager will arrange for the Protected Disclosures Assessor to undertake an initial assessment of the disclosure under these Procedures as soon as possible.

I am informed that this assessment process involves an assessment of the disclosure to determine whether or not it should be treated as a protected disclosure, having regard to a number of relevant matters. If the Assessor concludes that the disclosure should be treated as a protected disclosure, the Protected Disclosures Manager will notify the worker who made the disclosure that an investigation will be undertaken by the External Investigator. Any allegations of wrongdoing deemed by the Assessor to be outside the scope of the Act are addressed or investigated under the appropriate process.

The External Investigator is an independent external investigator appointed by the IPS Protected Disclosures Manager to conduct an investigation of a disclosure made under the Policy and Procedures/a complaint of penalisation or a review. The External Investigator will investigate the protected disclosure and will issue a report to the Protected Disclosures Manager of his/her findings within sixty working days of the date upon which the investigation is commissioned, or, where this is not reasonably practicable, within such further period as the External Investigator shall notify to the Protected Disclosures Manager.