A MEETING of the working group involved in the development of the ISO 37002 – Whistle-blowing Management System was held in Paris, France recently.
This international standard, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2021, would provide guidelines for establishing, developing, implementing, evaluating, and maintaining an effective and responsive whistleblowing management system through trust, impartiality and protection throughout the stages of the whistleblowing cycle within and by an organisation.
Some 30 experts in this working group meeting which I attended discussed the current progress in developing this standard. About 500 comments were received on the working draft issued following the last meeting in Sydney in November 2018.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a whistleblower as “a person who informs people in authority or the public that the company they work for is doing something wrong or illegal.”
Simply put, a whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical or not transparently correct within an organisation both private or public.
As whistleblowers often take significant personal risks when reporting suspected or actual acts of improper conduct such as bribery, they must have legal safeguards in the form of a guaranteed confidential reporting system and protection against retaliation.
They must also be accorded private rights to sue the organisation or directors concerned for damages should any discriminatory or retaliatory action be taken against them.
Examples of retaliation, discrimination or disciplinary action include, but are not limited to, dismissal, demotion, isolation, transfer, reassignment of roles or tasks, denial of education or training or self-promotion opportunities, bullying, victimisation, violence, other forms of harassment, or unfair audit of the person’s work.
On March 12 this year, the European Parliament and Member states reached a provisional agreement on new rules that would guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law. These new rules, setting EU-wide standards of protection for whistleblowers, were first proposed by the European Commission in April 2018. They cover a wide area of EU laws, including anti-money laundering and corporate taxation, data protection, protection of the Union’s financial interests, food and product safety and environmental protection and nuclear safety.
Member States are free to extend these rules to other areas, and the Commission encourages them to establish comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the same principles.
They also encourage whistleblowers to report wrongdoings through whichever route they consider most appropriate, including the media.
In Malaysia, our Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 (Act 711) will only protect the whistleblower who reports to an agency or organisation with investigative and enforcement power, namely the police, Customs Department, Road Transport Department, Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Immigration Department. This means if they reveal information to someone else, for example a Member of Parliament or the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), they would lose protection.
In this regard, I strongly urge the Governance, Integrity and Anti-corruption Centre (GIACC) to convince the Pakatan Harapan government and all MPs to rectify this weakness in the Act.
If we are serious about combating wrongdoings in our country, if we say that corruption is like a cancer in society, then we must place priority in obtaining the information that would lead to the prosecution of those involved from as wide a source as possible.
DR K. M. LOI
Ex-vice chair of UNCAC Coalition
Ex-deputy president of TI Malaysia