Tool

Whistle-blower incentives and protection

Encouragement and protection of individuals who reveal acts of non-integrity.

DESCRIPTION

Whistle-blowing refers to the event, when a person (an employee, a director or an external person) sounds an alarm in order to reveal alleged neglect or abuse within an organization, government body or company (or a business partner) that threatens its integrity and reputation.1 Encouraging whistle-blowing and protecting them from retaliation or reprisal is an important strategy of an organization’s integrity management.2

PURPOSE & LINK TO INTEGRITY

The purpose of whistle-blower protection is to provide whistle-blowers with a safe alternative to silence and empower them to report wrongdoing.1 By helping to detect corruption, whistle-blowers play an important role in converting a vicious cycle of secrecy into a virtuous cycle of integrity.1,2,3

An effective whistle-blowing system allows for the investigation of misconduct and corruption cases within an organization.4 Once unethical behaviour is brought to the attention of managers/ public officials, they can sanction those involved (in a public institution, the cases reported have to be treated according to their legal status). This in turn deters imitators, reduces costs and can bring back lost money to the organization. Moreover, the public image of the organization will improve if corrupt practices are prevented effectively and it gives employees the impression that the organization is serious about complying with the law and adhering to the code of conduct and integrity policies.4 An internal complaint and reporting system helps to formalize the reporting of non-integral activities.

KEY REQUIREMENTS

  • Does your organisation possess an adequate complaint management system both for internal and external whistle-blowers? (Also check tool Customer complaint management)

HOW TO

A whistle-blowing system can take various forms (hotlines, internet systems, mailboxes) and can be either internal (employees) or open for the general public. Whistle-blowing systems need to consider the legal framework – particularly whistle-blower protection, technical specifications, human capacity for investigation and prosecution – and a framework for disciplinary/sanction procedures.4

The following guiding principles for drafting whistle-blowing legislation can be recommended: 4

  • Developing a single, clear and comprehensive framework in order to be most effective
  • Ensuring safety for whistle-blowers and closely associated individuals
  • Whistle-blowers should receive professional or social recognition for having prevented harm to the organization or society (e.g. financial rewards)
  • Both internal and external reporting must be protected
  • Whistle-blower protection needs to be effectively and consistently enforced.

The following elements help to make a whistle-blower system effective: 4

  • A technical system for reporting corrupt behaviour by internet, telephone or mail. Several technical solutions are available but they need to be adapted to the country’s circumstance and needs. Licensing requirements also need to be taken into account.
  • A data management system in which information is being documented in a predefined manner to ensure information is comprehensive and to facilitate data management.
  • An interactive response system, using passwords and new accounts in IT-based systems, allows for a continuous exchange between the whistle-blower and the responsible agency to gather more information and update the whistle-blower about the process.
  • A dedicated unit for developing capacities to manage and systematize the information and for analysing the information received, in order to prepare for possible prosecution or disciplinary action but also as an input for targeted preventive reforms.
  • Clear-cut goals: define clear reporting lines, mandates and coordination procedures among different organizations (the organizations responsible for the whistle-blowing system, the police, the prosecution agency, line ministries, leadership, internal auditors, and HR management).
  • A monitoring and evaluation system.

Assuming rational decision-making, a person will blow the whistle when the benefits exceed the costs.5 Possible ways of increasing the rate of reporting unethical behaviour include:1

  • Non-monetary incentives that aim to increase the reputation of an employee or a citizen (e.g. employee of the month award, positive media coverage, etc.).6
  • Implementation of a mandatory whistle-blowing system, by making not blowing the whistle a criminal.7
  • Mobilization and citizen-to-organization interaction empowers citizens to report unethical behaviour through the use of SMS and the web.8 Such a two-channel reporting system has a greater reach due to the widespread use of mobile phones.9
  • Regular compliance surveys (e.g. every six months), which are mandatory for all staff, with questions about non-ethical behaviour such as corruption and bribery. This “compliance radar” reduces the inhibition threshold to report internal irregularities because whistle-blowers don’t see themselves as “squealers” – reporting becomes part of the normal procedure.
  • Contractual agreements with employees to communicate corruption cases.

KEY GUIDING DOCUMENTS

TI, 2010, Whistleblowing, an effective tool in the fight against corruption, Transparency International (TI), http://files.transparency.org/content/download/228/916/file/2010_1_PP_Whistleblowing_EN.pdf, accessed 07.12.2015

GIZ, no year, GIZ Anti-Corruption Toolbox – ´Whistleblowing Systems´, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Germany, https://gizanticorruptiontoolbox.org/wiki/Download, accessed 03.12.2015

OECD, 2012, Whistleblower protection: encouraging reporting, CleanGovBiz Integrity in Practice, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), France, http://www.oecd.org/cleangovbiz/toolkit/50042935.pdf, accessed 03.12.2015

FURTHER  READINGS

U4, 2007, Anti-corruption complaints mechanisms. U4 Expert Answer, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (U4)

U4, 2013, Key features of NGO accountability systems. U4 Expert Answer, 2013, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (U4)

Kwok Man-Wai, 2006, Formulating an effective anti-corruption strategy, The experience of Hong Kong, Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), Hong Kong

OSCE, 2004, Complaint mechanisms and the Ombudsman, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Austria

Warringah Council, 2004, Complaint Management Procedures and Implementation Guidelines, Warringah Council, Australia

BIOA, 2007, Guide to principles of good complaint handling, British and Irish Ombudsman Association (BIOA), UK

Commonwealth Ombudsman, 2009, Better practice guide to complaint handling, Commonwealth Ombudsman, Australia

IRC, 2006, About corruption and transparency in the water and sanitation sector, International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC), The Netherlands

G20, no year, Protection of Whistleblowers. Study on whistleblower protection frameworks, compendium of best practices and guiding principles for legislation, G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan (G20)

U4, 2010, Reducing Risks of Reporting Corruption. Lessons from an Online Complaints System in Kenya, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (U4)

SPIDER, 2010, Increasing Transparency & Fighting Corruption through ICT. Empowering People & Communities, The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER), Sweden

FULL REFERENCES

  1. TI, 2010, Whistleblowing, an effective tool in the fight against corruption, Transparency International (TI), http://files.transparency.org/content/download/228/916/file/2010_1_PP_Whistleblowing_EN.pdf, accessed 07.12.2015
  2. U4, 2008, Making Whistleblower Protection Work, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (U4)
  3. U4, 2009, Good practice in Whistleblowing Protection Legislation (WPL), U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (U4)
  4. GIZ, no year, GIZ Anti-Corruption Toolbox – ´Whistleblowing Systems´, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Germany, https://gizanticorruptiontoolbox.org/wiki/Download, accessed 03.12.2015
  5. Rapp, 1987, Beyond protection, University of Toledo College of Law, USA
  6. Lee and Fargher, 2012, Whistle-blowing to detect fraud. Incentives, opportunities and fraud characteristics, Australian National University, Australia
  7. De Schepper, 2009, Setting the right incentives for whistleblowers, European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE)
  8. SPIDER, 2010, Increasing Transparency & Fighting Corruption through ICT. Empowering People & Communities, The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER), Sweden
  9. Crandall and Mutuku, no year, M-Governance: Exploratory Survey on Kenyan Service Delivery and Government Interaction, iHUB Research, Kenya
Last updated 12 April 2019

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