More than 100 public service whistleblowers come forward each month

More than 100 allegations are being made each month of crime, corruption or serious incompetence by Commonwealth government officials under new whistleblower protections laws.

More than 380 "disclosures" have been made in the first six months of the legislation and another 288 would-be whistleblowers have been told that their accusations did not fit the criteria to be investigated under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman's office says it has taken another 250 calls on its "Public Interest Disclosure" hotline.

Senior Ombudsman's Office official George Masri told a gathering of public servants in Canberra on Tuesday morning that he believed departments "wanted to do the right thing" in protecting whistleblowers from reprisal and protect their identities.


But many bureaucrats remained unclear on how the new laws worked in practice.

The laws give legal protection to officials who spill the beans on the Australian Public Service, its statutory agencies, Commonwealth authorities, the Defence Force, parliamentary departments and government contractors.

The laws endured a tortuous, four-year development process through Parliament before coming into force in early 2014.

Mr Masri told Tuesday's IPAA conference that 288 complaints failed to get over the first hurdle to be considered under the laws.

"There about 288 approaches from potential disclosers where it was determined that it wasn't a PID [Public Interest Disclosure] under the scheme," the director at the Ombudsman's office said.

"It could be because it wasn't a public official or the grounds they were claiming to be covered under the Public Interest Disclosure Scheme was not disclosable conduct, some [agencies] have also said it wasn't serious enough to meet the threshold."

But 383 disclosures, which are made to individual departments and agencies and then notified to the Ombudsman, were found to be serious enough to be taken to the next step.

"The agencies have informed us there were 383 PIDs received, as at the end of June, from public officials that belonged to 50 different agencies," Mr Masri said.

"There are two or three agencies that clearly dominate the figures, one is about half of the 383."

The Ombudsman's official did not name the agencies but said that about half the disclosures were alleging "contraventions" of the law.

"The main grounds about which people are claiming disclosure is contrary to a law of the Commonwealth," Mr Masri said.

"About 22 per cent go to that threshold of either abuse of position or the grounds that, if proven, would result in disciplinary action against the public official.

"About 14 per cent relate to maladministration.

"Eighty per cent of the disclosures are from present public officials.

"Agencies inform us that about 220 investigations have commenced or concluded and that's by about 33 agencies."

Howard Whitton, of the University of Canberra's National Institute for Governance and a member of the National Anti-Corruption Plan committee, said he was not surprised at the numbers of would-be whistleblowers who were coming forward.

"The Commonwealth has had a problem for a very long time which it hasn't been addressing so it doesn't surprise me," Mr Whitton said.