Whistleblowing is the actual exposure of misbehaviours of a junior or senior member of staff of an organization. These misbehaviours could vary from trivial issues to a multifaceted misdemeanor that could affect or ruin an organization’s corporate image and its management.
Whistleblowing is a fundamental instrument available for an organization’s use. If it is not used, scam, deceit, fraud, misdemeanors, disappointments, and eventual collapse may trail an organization’s existence. Everyone should be well aware of the organization’s goals in clear statements and strictly adhere to them to avoid embarrassment and immense damage to an organization’s corporate image. All organizations crave sincerity from and among their workforces. If there is integrity, it will, in turn, enable total commitment to the organization’s operations which would lead to more remarkable accomplishments. Whistleblowing culture in an organization encourages transparency. It can also shield the organization and its clients since the more ethically inclined staff would constantly bring unethical issues to the organization’s awareness.
Whistleblowing against Maladministration
The worth of whistleblowing cannot be overemphasized. Employee whistleblowing is one of the main essential avenues in which misdemeanours can be exposed in any organization. There is, however, a great need for more to be put in place by lawmakers in addition to whatever other people do to encourage whistleblowing and associated reports of corruption. Furthermore, the lawmakers need to deal with reports of a suspected crime, misdemeanours, and unnecessary risks effectively, in addition to offering suitable protective shields for whistle-blowers. Also, utilizing exposure avenues can increase the success rate of whistleblowing systems tremendously.
Whistleblowing modes and avenues of exposure
The whistle-blowers have a detailed understanding, right of entry, and proficiency as part of the organization. These enable them to discover corruption or other unethical issues worth apprehension, which might have remained unexposed otherwise. They nonetheless are frequently in a complicated circumstance because of their potential allegiance to co-workers, contract agreement on privacy, as well as the danger of revenge.
The mode of exposure could be “Open,” “Confidential,” or “Anonymous.” In the “Open” mode, people openly expose or divulge information. They state categorically that “they do not need their name and identity to be kept secret.” In the “Confidential” mode, the person’s name and identity that divulged the information are recognized by the receiver. However, they will not be revealed without the person’s permission, except mandatory by law. In the “Anonymous” mode, there is a reception of information without a known source or reference to the originator.
There are various avenues of exposure, out of which there are three main avenues. The first is “Internal avenue of exposure.” This is done within the organization where the corruption was committed. The second is “External avenue of exposure to specific Authority.” This is done by divulging information to a law enforcement agency or supervisory authority. The third is “External avenue of exposure to the Public.” This is done by revealing information to any public watchdog such as the media or any other public platform. Other avenues of exposure should be accessible to anybody working in a public or private organization. Technology has also encouraged web-based whistleblowing avenues. Some of these allow for “two-way anonymous and encrypted” communication involving a whistle-blower and the information receiver.
Whistle-blower protection is essential for the success of crime discovery; it, therefore, should be a significant part of any whistleblowing system. Due to the considerable profits to the people implicated in corruption and the grave danger of criminal and related discipline to which these people are exposed, persons who divulge these fraudulent actions can put themselves, relatives, and co-workers at risk. Instead of confessing to the fraudulent acts and changing for the better, persons caught up in corruption may decide to assault or take revenge.
Revenge against whistle-blowers is a serious drawback to successful anti-corruption programmes, and it troubles people and their means of living. In some situations, such as when whistle-blowers are unduly sent away or discriminated against based on gender or sexual orientation, revenge can become a breach of human rights. Therefore, a crucial part of any arrangement to deal with divulged crimes is developing a modus operandi for sustaining privacy and protecting the people who expose corruption.
Revenge against whistle-blowers can occur despite the avenues used to reveal corruption; therefore, the concerned organization should protect the whistle-blower. There are specific situations where giving protection is contentious. When an “External avenue of exposure to the Public” is employed by divulging information to any public watchdog such as the media or any other public platform, this does not afford the organization a chance to deal with the issue, and this can consequently be problematic for the relevant organization. Therefore, organizations may not desire to give protection in such situations as this may promote such external reporting.
Additionally, a shield for exposure to the media is frequently given only when specific legal necessities are fulfilled. The legal conditions could be different in diverse countries and could depend upon the gravity of the revealed issue; divulging information following specific criteria; and using prior “Internal avenue of exposure” or “External avenue of exposure to specific Authority or Regulator.” If the confession or following revenge are tabled in a court, the court will have to evaluate the issue on a case-by-case basis and balance the parties’ constitutional rights.
One more controversial matter that goes beyond whistle-blowers’ protection is whether whistle-blowers should be given monetary compensation. Monetary compensations are used in certain countries, while many others avoid such a practice. The repercussion of monetary encouragements should be appraised based on the situation of each authority. The compensation for divulging information on fraud could be as high as 30% of the administration’s recovery. Additionally, defendants who violate the laid down rules are mandated to reimburse the government thrice the sum of damages incurred by the government, and civil penalties also apply in some cases.
Whistle-blowers, however, only have the right to monetary compensation if it is confirmed that there was a financial loss. This could be a matter of concern as those issues with no particular monetary loss are not divulged. Also, whistle-blowers have deferred revealing information in order to allow such deceit to accumulate more and increase to an appreciable value so that they can obtain an enhanced compensation. The price of this is that the damage done goes hidden until such people feel it is time for revealing the issue.
The idea of giving incentives to whistle-blowers makes it convenient to acquire inside report at the same time as neutralizing most of the individual dangers confronting whistle-blowers. The compensation programmes have also been confirmed in many countries to be cheaper because expenditure is reduced by using cost-effective conventional undercover techniques. The essential part is making sure that all whistle-blowers are effectively protected from all forms of revenge.
South African government should think about compensating whistle-blowers for divulging important information which helps in successful trials. Whistle-blowers should be given motivations over and above being rewarded for any work-related disadvantage endured due to the struggle against scams and crimes that are widespread in the country. The government and lawmakers could adopt legislation like the “False Claims Act” since it is huge prevention for crimes, scams, and fraud. This type of legislation would also need an efficient enforcement policy to make sure it is appropriately implemented. Assuming South Africa had laws that impose grave consequences on corruption and making those who breach such laws pay the recuperated sum thrice, it definitely would make sure that those perpetrating these unlawful actions think twice due to the grave penalty.
Dr. Lizzy Oluwatoyin Ofusori is a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. She writes in her capacity.