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Whistle Blowers need protection not prosecution


I attended the ISO/TC 309 Working Group 3 meeting on the design and development of ISO 37002: Whistle-blowing Management System in Paris from March 24 to 28, 2019.


This international standard enables the internal reporting of and dealing with reports about wrongdoing, and individuals involved in that process. This document provides guidance for establishing, developing, implementing, evaluating, maintaining and improving a whistle-blowing management system through trust, impartiality and protection throughout the stages of the whistleblowing cycle in and by an organisation.


There were 30 experts in this working group meeting in Paris to discuss the advancement of developing this standard where 500 comments had been received on the working draft issued following the last meeting in Sydney last November. This ISO 37002 standard is expected to be published by June 2021.


Corruption cannot be tackled without a citizenry willing to blow the whistle.


Whistle-blowers must be protected, and not prosecuted, to fight corruption. Who is a whistle-blower? The Oxford Dictionary defines a whistle-blower as a person who informs people in authority or the public that the company, they work for is doing something wrong or illegal.


Technically, a whistle-blower is a person who exposes information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not transparently correct in an organisation that is either private or public and because of this expose, there must be laws to protect whistle-blowers.


While whistle-blowers often pay a high price by taking personal risk in reporting suspected or actual bribery and other noncompliance, they must have legal protection in the form of guaranteed confidential reporting and anti-retaliation protections. They must have private rights of action to sue the organisation or directors for damages as a result of discriminatory or retaliatory behaviour.


Whistle-blowers must be protected against threats of reprisal. Unfortunately, our Whistle-Blower Protection Act 2010 [Act 711] is not able to protect whistle-blowers if the disclosure is not made to the police or similar authorities. Section 6 of the act states that one can only report to any of the five law enforcement agencies: police, Customs Department, Road Transport Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Immigration Department.


The act makes whistle-blowers vulnerable if they reveal information to someone else, for example, to a member of parliament or the Human Rights Commission, and he loses protection under the act.


The OECD 2009 Anti-Bribery Recommendation recommends that countries ensure that “appropriate measures are in place to protect from discriminatory or disciplinary action public and private sector employees, who report in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities suspected acts of bribery”.


On March 12, the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Union Council reached an agreement on creating free-speech protection for whistle-blowers and employees who challenge illegality or abuse of power that betray the public trust. This new directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law (7242/19) protects whistle-blowers and encourages people to report wrongdoing, through whichever route they consider appropriate, and it is legally binding on the 28 member nations.


The Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre should take up these challenges and convince the government to relook our own act. If not, no one will come forward for fear of repercussions or retaliations.

Integrate anti-graft initiatives into Sustainable Development Goals
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