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Protect attended the Voices of Justice International Conference on Corporate Crime Reporting and Whistleblower’s Protection, organised by the Centre for Financial and Corporate Integrity at Coventry University in partnership with Constantine Cannon, WhistleblowersUK and MLROs.com

The conference, held to explore the close relationship between corporate crime reporting and whistleblowing within the public and private sector, and to demonstrate the importance of whistleblowers within this field, began with an introductory presentation, including a keynote speech from Rt Hon. Baroness Kramer on the purpose of the APPG for Whistleblowing and the importance of placing the whistleblower’s perspective at the forefront to bring about effective legislative change.

This was followed by sessions on comparing various countries’ attitudes on corporate crime reporting and legal protections for whistleblowers outside and within the EU, and distressing experiences told by whistleblowers themselves.

Extensive talks and debates were held about implementing rewards systems for whistleblowers in the UK similar to America, such as the rewards systems of the Communities Futures Trading Commission, Internal Revenue Service, and Securities and Exchange Commission. Whilst it was argued that the UK should adopt a culture of rewarding whistleblowers for bravely raising concerns as opposed to solely when they face a loss for doing so, some pointed out the issue of applicability of rewards schemes for concerns outside of financial malpractice, for instance safeguarding, where there is no financial penalty to divide up.

The inefficiencies of whistleblowing arrangements for those in the financial sector were explored and the outstanding culture of fear, futility and reprisal. Dr Constantino Grasso highlighted the significance of the new EU whistleblowing Directive, especially considering that only 10 out of 28 EU countries currently have extensive legal whistleblowing protections. There were discussions on the need to investigate and eliminate the link between whistleblowers raising concerns and consequential retaliation and persecution, as well as an exploration of how this practice has been ingrained culturally for centuries. The tales of the brave actions by whistleblowers John Christensen, Mark Lille, Martin Woods and Martin Bright (on behalf of Katharine Gunn)  illustrated the difficulty of not only trying to enable their concerns to be addressed but also the psychological and at times life-threatening obstacles faced as a result of whistleblowing.

Even though diverse perspectives and experiences were expressed that day, one key message was made incredibly clear – that whistleblowers are vital information providers in order to combat wrongdoing, achieve justice and invoke change in society. This was particularly emphasised by the fact that 40% of enforcement investigations and actions taken by the CFTC involve whistleblowers. Furthermore, it was highlighted that Wikileaks, despite its controversy, was instrumental in creating legislative change and the EU whistleblowing Directive probably would not have come into fruition without Luxleaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour. Strengthening legal protections and reporting channels for whistleblowers is crucial not only to safeguard the culture, integrity and reputation of public and private organisations, but to protect the public interest at large.

 

By Protect Adviser Nneka Egbuji

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We have a new opportunity for three students to volunteer with us to undertake legal research (read, categorise and summarise employment tribunal judgments involving a whistleblowing (Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) claim, but also to assist with general admin duties. The volunteers may also have the opportunity to observe some advice calls to clients. 

Whistleblowing charity Protect (Formerly Public Concern at Work)  is an independent charity and legal advice centre. We were set up in 1993 in response to a series of scandals and tragedies in the late 1980s and early 1990s which included the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry in which 193 people died in 1987, the Piper Alpha oil rig explosion and the collapse of the BCCI amidst widespread fraud in 1990.  Official inquiries after each of these disasters revealed that all too often staff had known of dangers but were too scared to speak up or, if they did, that they did so in the wrong way or to the wrong person and were ignored and/or dismissed.

We have led developments on whistleblowing as a good governance and risk management tool in the UK and abroad. We provide a confidential advice line for individuals with whistleblowing dilemmas; professional support to organisations and policy advice to Government and Members of Parliament.  The charity’s work has been commended by ministers, the Court of Appeal, leading newspapers, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and various public inquiries.

We expect volunteers to be able to commit for 1 or 2 days a day a week (09:30 –17:30) for a minimum 6-month period, commencing June 2019.We currently offer expenses to volunteers to cover travel costs and lunch.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for any of these roles you must be:

  • A Law graduate (or GDL). In special cases we will consider candidates enrolled on the GDL
  • Committed to the pro bono ethic of providing highly professional legal services to people who cannot afford to pay for them or who are otherwise vulnerable;
  • Able to commit to the role for the relevant period;
  • Able to commit the relevant time on a weekly basis

How to apply If you would like to apply for this role, please send your CV with a cover letter (no more than one side of A4 in size 12 font) explaining your interest, commitment, availability and highlighting relevant experience or abilities to Hari Raithatha (hari@protect-advice.org.uk) no later than Monday June 10.

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A report by technology provider EQS Group and the University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur in Switzerland has found more than a third of British companies have no system in place for employees to raise concerns about the behaviour of colleagues.

The Whistleblowing Report 2019 showed 39 per cent of British companies received complaints about misconduct last year on matters such as bribery, theft or fraud. The report also found the UK has a more firmly entrenched whistleblowing culture than many other countries.

Misconduct was more frequently reported in large companies with more than 249 employees. Twenty nine per cent of these unearthed potential financial loss of between £9,000 and £90,000 via whistleblowing channels while 16 per cent identified over £90,000.

The UK’s 65% of companies with systems in place compared favourably with Germany’s 55.5% and France’s 53%. Switzerland almost matched the UK, with 64.9%. In terms of specialist reporting channels, such as web-based whistleblowing systems and hotlines, the UK was even further ahead with 68.1% of those with whistleblowing systems in place operating them as opposed to 47.7% in Germany.

Viviane Joynes, UK managing director at EQS Group, said: “Whistleblowing channels are an important risk mitigation tool for organisations of all sizes. As mandated in the EU directive we believe that companies should offer effective, confidential and secure reporting channels to their stakeholders to protect their own and the public’s interest.”

In April, the EU adopted the Whistleblowing Directive which will strengthen whistleblowing provisions across Europe and must be implemented into member state laws by May 2021.

Protect Senior Advisor, Ida Nowers, said, “Policy and whistleblowing systems are pointless without awareness, trust and confidence.  The real failing we tend to see is a lack of training and expertise among senior managers and personnel.”

 

Read the Whistleblowing Report 2019

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Protect’s Head of Advocacy and Advice, Bob Matheson was interviewed by South Korean TV channel, EBS (Educational Broadcasting System) for their weekly programme ‘Documentary insight’ to discuss how Protect supports whistleblowers, our work with organisations, the whistleblowing legislation in the UK, and the new EU legislation which will be introduced by 2021.

Whistleblowing cases in South Korea are received through Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission (ACRC). After receipt the cases, related departments with investigated rights will judge whether it is affected public interest or not. Then they will notify the respondent.

In South Korea, people tend to consider whistleblowers as traitors without loyalty for speaking out, and Bob was asked what could be done to change this social perception, and his suggestions to improve whistleblowing in South Korean society.

He said, “Education and familiarisation. A lot of the negative views towards whistleblowers come from a place of misunderstanding. Whistleblowers are in fact, integral to making our hospitals safe, our financial institutions stable, and our governments uncorrupt. Once what is at stake is made clear, who can really argue with that?

Further, because the public will generally only see the exceptionally small number of whistleblowers who end up raising concerns with the media, there is a perception that this is the start and end of the process, rather than the last step in a long painful journey of trying to bring the issues to your organisation’s, or the relevant statutory authority’s, attention. Our research suggest that 8% of the population have raised whistleblowing concerns in the last two years, which amounts to over 5 million people in the UK alone! Whistleblowers are often thought of as disloyal, and yet the vast majority of individuals who I’ve spoken to are extremely loyal to the aims of the organisation.

We can only challenge these misconceptions with firstly teaching people, and then showing them differently. By embedding a culture for the large magnitude of day-to-day wrongdoing, we familiarise society with what whistleblowing actually means, and pave the way for societal change.”

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Protect Interim Chief Executive, Jon Cunningham appears in the latest issue of Public Sector Focus discussing why it is vital local authorities have in place strong whistleblowing arrangements.

“Overburdened, under-funded and under-pressure they maybe but now more than ever local authorities need robust whistleblowing procedures as standard good governance – it could help prevent or stop serious wrongdoing as they face the squeeze.

Whistleblowing. It’s a word that can still divide people, but at Protect, we believe whistleblowing is a good thing.  We’re in the business of whistleblowing and for the past 25 years have been helping people speak up over workplace concerns.  Fraud, patient safety, food safety concerns and governance  in schools – the concerns we advise on are diverse. We also support organisations create best practice whistleblowing cultures. It’s a no-brainer – your staff are the eyes, ears and often the beating heart of an organisation and staff are very often the first to become aware of any risk or wrongdoing in the workplace.

Protect, formerly known as Public Concern at Work,  supports around 300 organisations from all sectors, the financial services sector, NHS, construction, transport, retail, education, as well as many local authorities. Our Business Team offers training, consultancy, policy reviews, and ongoing support through access to our Protect advice line for an organisation’s employees who wish to raise a concern externally. Sadly, many organisations come to see the benefit of our work and how whistleblowing works as a risk governance tool only after a particularly unsavoury scandal has hit the press.”  Read the Public Sector Focus article in full

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