Corruption often goes unchallenged when people do not speak out about it. Witness accounts offer invaluable insights into corruption, and are powerful tools in the fight against it. From exposing multi-million dollar financial scams to dangerous medical practices, whistleblowers play a crucial role in saving resources and even lives.
But for some, blowing the whistle can carry high personal risk – particularly when there is little legal protection against dismissal, humiliation or even physical abuse. Controls on information, libel and defamation laws, and inadequate investigation of whistleblowers’ claims can all deter people from speaking out.
Whistleblowers are less likely to report workplace misconduct when their employers do not provide clear internal reporting channels. And in some settings, whistleblowing carries connotations of betrayal rather than being seen as a benefit to the public. Ultimately, societies, institutions and citizens lose out when there is no one willing to cry foul in the face of corruption.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUMMIT?
The Summit communique included:
“We commit to make it easier for people to report suspected acts of corruption, to protect “whistleblowers” from discriminatory and retaliatory actions, and to promote action including by law enforcement agencies where credible information is provided. We support the role that the media, including investigative journalists, the business community, and civil society can play in complementing and reinforcing corruption reporting systems including effective monitoring and follow up.”
At the Anti-Corruption Summit the UK stated: “The UK is committed to providing effective protections for whistleblowers and made recent legislative changes to make the system more transparent. The UK will review the effectiveness of these changes”.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE?
The UK Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017-2022 reiterates and clarifies the Government’s commitment to review the effectiveness of recent legislative changes in relation to whistleblowing, stating that it would: “Review in 2018/19 the recent changes to the whistleblowing framework, as introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.” According to the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy: Year 1 Update, consultations targeted at key industry professionals for the review of this framework were due to commence by the end of 2019.
The UK Anti-Corruption Strategy Year 2 Update states:
“In Year 1, we reported that in 2019 we would review the changes to the whistleblowing framework as introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which would incorporate a review of the effectiveness of the Whistleblowing Guidance for Employers and Code of Practice. This was put on temporary hold in 2019 while we waited to see if the new EU Whistleblowing Directive needed to be introduced ahead of EU Exit. We are currently considering the timing and scope of the review.”