What we Investigate

For us to be able to investigate a matter, it must relate to improper conduct by a Northern Territory public body or public officer. Be aware that there are also particular kinds of matters we do not investigate.
  • Type 1: A public body or public officer behaves in a way that involves one or more of the characteristics in Column A and one or more of the characteristics in Column B.


    Column A
    (degree of seriousness)
    Column B
    (kind of behaviour)
    Conduct that could result in the person being charged with a criminal offence.
    Conduct that could result in the person’s employment being terminated.
    Seeking / accepting a bribe or inducement
    Inappropriate bias
    A breach of trust
    Misuse of confidential information

    Type 2: A public body or public officer does something which involves:

    • a risk to public health and safety; or
    • a risk to the environment; or
    • misuse or mismanagement of public resources;

    Type 3: A public body or public officer does something which adversely affects someone’s interests in a significant and specific way and that conduct is one or more of the following:

    • contrary to law; 
    • unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory; or 
    • based at least partly on improper motives.

    Type 4: A person (not necessarily a public officer) does something to another person:

    • because they made a disclosure or cooperated with our investigation; or 
    • to deter them from making a disclosure or cooperating with our investigation.

    To see the definition of improper conduct as it appears in the legislation, click here.

  • We can investigate regardless of whether the improper conduct occurred in the past, is occurring at the moment, or may occur in the future. For allegations of future conduct, there must be information to suggest a public body or public officer intends to engage in improper conduct in the future.

    Information about improper conduct is known as public interest information.

    We can also investigate conspiracies and attempts to engage in improper conduct, provided that the alleged conduct would be a criminal offence.

  • The following bodies are public bodies if they are located in the Territory:

    • Members of the Legislative Assembly (the NT parliament)
    • NT Government Agencies (meaning departments, and some offices and government corporations)
    • Local government councils, including city and rural councils
    • NT Police
    • Public nursing homes
    • Public hospitals
    • Public schools
    • Charles Darwin University
    • Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
    • PowerWater Corporation
    • Territory Insurance Office (TIO)
    • Darwin Port Corporation
    • Organisations created by NT legislation to serve a public purpose
    • Individual officers appointed by a minister under an Act.

    The Commissioner can also investigate a body where at least the majority of members are appointed by the Administrator or a Minister. For example, the Hospital Management Board for each hospital consists of 8 persons, 5 of whom are persons appointed by the Minister (see the Hospital Management Boards Act s 6). In the future, the Public Interest Disclosure Regulations may list additional organisations as public bodies.

    The definition ‘public body’ does not include courts or boards, commissions, tribunals or other bodies established under an Act that have judicial or quasi-judicial functions in the performance of their deliberative functions. This is interpreted to mean that the administrative functions of some boards or tribunals may be subject to scrutiny under the Act but that their judicial or quasi-judicial functions will not be. 

    If you are unsure whether or not a specific agency or organisation falls within the definition, you should consider seeking legal advice or contacting this Office. Any such communication will remain confidential and may be made anonymously.

    Click here for the statutory definition of a public body.

  • A public officer includes:

    • Any member, officer or employee of a public body, including a police officer. Some contract service providers may be employees if their contractual arrangements are sufficiently like an employment arrangement.
    • A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), meaning a politician elected to the Territory’s parliament.
    • Someone appointed by the Administrator or by a Minister under an Northern Territory Act (eg. the Commissioner for Public Employment is appointed by the Administrator under section 8 of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act).
  • It is important to recognise that we are not here to help you with your personal grievances (eg. ‘I didn’t get a promotion’ or ‘The government has been slow in responding to my request’). Our role is to expose and eliminate improper conduct in the public sector, not for personal benefit, but for the good of the Territory community.

    If you believe your personal grievance reveals an example of improper conduct by a public body or public officer, then we encourage you to report it to us. It may be that the improper conduct is an issue we can investigate separately to the issue of your personal grievance. However, we are unlikely to investigate the matter if the impropriety relates to a minor technical or procedural mistake.

    We also operate in a way that acknowledges the Territory has a democratically elected government. As our elected representatives, the government is entitled to make decisions about what policies to pursue, and which projects should be funded. Not everyone will agree with every policy. It is not our role to investigate policy decisions that were made in a proper, legal way. Our job is to investigate decisions and actions that were taken improperly or illegally.

    If we are unable to help, here is a useful list of other avenues for pursuing your issue.