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Safe Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection)

Category: Governance
Number: GOV-022-020
Audience: All University members
Issued: December 10, 2013
Revised: December 15, 2020
Owner(s): Executive Director (University Governance)
Approved by: Board of Governors
Contact: Internal Auditor - 306-337-3127 - safe.disclosure (at) uregina.ca

Introduction

This policy applies to the following members of the University:

  • students,
  • employees (faculty, staff, student employees),
  • all people who teach and conduct research at the University of Regina, and
  • all members of University committees (including the Senate and Board of Governors), and
  • University volunteers, consultants, contractors, to the extent that University resources and personnel are involved or impacted.

The University is committed to upholding standards of conduct that reflect respect, integrity, and honesty in its day-to-day decisions, actions, and interactions. The University is also committed to protecting its revenue, property, information, and other assets and will immediately act on any reported violations of the law or University policy.

The purpose of this policy is:

  • to offer University members a mechanism for reporting good faith allegations of wrongdoing (such allegations are sometimes referred to as “whistleblower” reports), where no other process exists under an alternate policy;
  • to prescribe procedures for the reporting, investigation, and response to good faith allegations; and
  • to protect those who make good faith allegations by prohibiting subsequent retaliation against them.

Investigations will only be undertaken under this policy when other means to address the allegation are exhausted, unavailable, or unacceptable at the University’s discretion.

This policy is not intended to limit, amend or replace an existing alternate policy or employment agreement that has been established for purposes including but not limited to:

  • individual complaints, appeals, grievances, management of employee performance or provisions in a collective agreement;
  • discrimination, workplace violence or harassment, sexual violence, health and safety or human rights; or
  • appeals, complaints, grievances or issues associated with academic misconduct, research, and intellectual property.

Situations where there is an imminent threat to personal safety or University property must be reported immediately to Campus Security 306-585-4999.

Policy

Any member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another member has committed fraud or wrongdoing shall report the allegation to the Office of Internal Audit.

All reported allegations must be in writing, but they may be anonymous. A Safe Disclosure Report template File (44 KB) is available.

The Internal Auditor will objectively and independently consider all reported allegations. Allegations will be considered regardless of the accused’s position, title, and length of service or relationship with the University.

The Internal Auditor will decide if and how an investigation shall proceed. An investigation may be performed by the Office of Internal Audit or by another investigator or an investigation team, if required.

Members of the University community, including the accused and the reporter (if known), are expected to cooperate fully with the investigator (or investigation team) to ensure that any suspected wrongdoing is investigated thoroughly.

Members are not to take it upon themselves to investigate a suspected wrongdoing, and they should not discuss a wrongdoing or allegation they have reported with anyone other than as authorized by the University.

All information about the allegation and the investigation will be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. Consistent with the principle of an individual being innocent until proven guilty, all reasonable steps will be taken to protect the identity (if known) of the reporter and the accused.

The University will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who reports an allegation, regardless of the result of the investigation.

Members are asked to immediately report any kind of retaliation to the Internal Auditor (or Campus Security if there is an imminent concern or threat to a person’s safety).

 

Roles and Responsibilities

University Members

  • must not tolerate any wrongdoing; and must consistently promote and demonstrate professional conduct, ethical behavior, and integrity through compliance with all applicable university policies and procedures, laws, rules, and regulations.
  • who are aware of or reasonably suspect wrongdoing shall report the activity in writing to the Office of Internal Audit.
  • who believe that they have been subject to retaliation as a result of reporting an alleged wrongdoing should immediately report any kind of retaliation to the Office of Internal Audit.
  • shall cooperate with the investigator or investigation team and respond in a timely fashion to any request for information or meetings if an investigation of an alleged wrongdoing is undertaken.

Board of Governors

  • oversees the safe disclosure reporting of allegations of wrongdoing through its Audit & Risk Management Committee by reviewing reports from the Office of Internal Audit on allegations received, investigations performed, results of investigations, and actions pursuant to the investigations.

Senior Executive

  • establishes effective controls and procedures in order to prevent and detect fraud, and to safeguard University assets and resources.
  • ensures that the University has appropriate and effective procedures for dealing with allegations of wrongdoing.
  • ensures that this policy and related procedures are communicated to University members.
  • monitors the compliance with this policy and procedures.

Executive Director, University Governance

  • ensures that the investigator is provided with the resources and support necessary to conduct a thorough investigation.
  • reviews the results of investigations of alleged wrongdoing or fraud.

Office of Internal Audit

  • acts as a central point of contact for receiving disclosures of an alleged wrongdoing.
  • has the primary responsibility for coordinating investigations of allegations of wrongdoing.
  • prepares the investigation findings for communication to appropriate Senior Executives and the Audit & Risk Management Committee.
  • prepares semi-annual reports to the Audit & Risk Management Committee on allegations received, investigations performed, results of investigations, and actions pursuant to the investigations.
  • shall treat all information that it collects or receives in confidence except as is necessary for a thorough investigation and/or as required by law or a standard of ethical conduct.

 

Consequences for Noncompliance

Where it is determined that wrongdoing has occurred, the University will apply remedies consistent with the seriousness of the wrongdoing, up to and including termination of the member’s position with the University and referral to a law enforcement agency.

If a student is involved in a wrongdoing, the University will apply measures prescribed by the non-academic misconduct regulations.

No Malicious Reports

An allegation of wrongdoing is a serious matter. If the University determines that a report is not a good faith allegation, the reporter may be subject to disciplinary actions up to and including dismissal, and possible legal action.

 

Processes

Reporting an Allegation of Wrongdoing

1. A member reports his or her or their suspicions or knowledge of a wrongdoing in writing to the Office of Internal Audit. An allegation should be brought in a timely manner and include clear and detailed information about the wrongdoing, including places and dates, person(s) involved, witnesses, and evidence available(if known) so that a reasonable investigation can be conducted. Delay in reporting may affect the University's ability to address the allegation.

The report may be anonymous, however, a reporter's decision to remain anonymous may impact the ability of the University to address the allegation

2. After receiving the report, the Internal Auditor shall review it and decide within 10 working days if an investigation is warranted. Legal counsel or others may be consulted to assist in this determination.

3. If the Internal Auditor determines that an investigation is warranted, the Internal Auditor may conduct the investigation, or recommend that the Senior Executive appoint a different investigator.

4. If an investigation is warranted, the allegation is also reported to the Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

5. If the Internal Auditor determines that the allegation is without substance or merit, or that the report is not a good faith allegation, the allegation may be dismissed without investigation. In such instances, the reporter will be so informed, and may be given opportunity to re-submit the allegation with additional evidence.

Investigating Allegations of Wrongdoing

1. The investigator will do an initial assessment and determine if an investigation team is necessary. If necessary, the investigator will contact the University officers and others (i.e. legal counsel, forensic or IT experts) with the required expertise, or an external investigation team may be contracted to perform some or all of the investigation.

2. The Executive Director, University Governance ensures the investigator is provided with the resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation.

3. The investigator coordinates the investigation, consulting with legal counsel and others (if/as necessary).

The investigation timeframe will depend on the situation and the complexity of the allegation.

Once an investigation begins, all inquiries about the allegation should be directed to the investigator.

4. The investigator reports the investigation procedures, findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the Executive Director, University Governance, or to the Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee if the allegation or findings involve any of the Senior Executives, and to the Office of Internal Audit if the investigation is not performed by this office.

5. All University members, including the reporter, the accused and their advisors, shall fully cooperate with the investigator and provide the information required for the investigation.

6. To maintain the integrity of an investigation process, the University will take reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible during the investigation.  Confidentiality may not be possible where identification is required to conduct a thorough investigation, to comply with the law, and to provide accused individuals their legal rights of defence.

7. The Office of Internal Audit files all electronic and hardcopy files and documents related to the investigation according to the established record retention and archiving schedule.

Reporting the Allegations and Results of Investigations

1. The results of investigations will be promptly reported to the Executive Director, University Governance and also to the Audit & Risk Management Committee at least semi-annually.

2. Where the report confirms that the accused has committed wrongdoing, sanctions or disciplinary measures will be taken as deemed appropriate, as well as possible legal action.

3. The University may contact the University’s insurer, the Provincial Auditor, and law enforcement agencies (if appropriate).

4. The Internal Auditor will provide semi-annual reports to the Audit & Risk Management Committee on disclosures received, investigations performed, and actions taken pursuant to the investigations.

5. All reports prepared by the Internal Auditor are intended to be confidential.

Protection from Retailiation for Reporting Wrongdoing

1. The University will not tolerate any retaliation directly or indirectly against any member who submits a good faith allegation of wrongdoing.

2. University members who experience harassment, threats, retaliation or discrimination as a result of reporting evidence of a wrongdoing or participating in any investigation of wrongdoing should immediately report it to the Internal Auditor (or Campus Security if there is an imminent concern or threat to a person’s safety).

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