WHAT IS A WHISTLEBLOWER? Why a Whistleblower? Here we look at the important role that Whistleblowers play in our society, and why it is encouraged.
What is a Whistleblower? Why a Whistleblower? Here we look at the important role that Whistleblowers play in our society, and why it is encouraged because it contributes, immensely, to fight against injustice.
A while back ago Transparency International put out the largest ever survey that tracked peoples opinion on corruption. 114,000 people from 107 countries were asked about their opinions and experiences, their response confirmed that people from all over the world are outraged at the widespread activity of corruption and the negativity it has on society.
Of the people that were talked to sixty seven percent (67%) believed that as individuals they can make a difference in the fight against corruption. This was followed by the launching of several activities across the globe that encouraged people to speak up against corruption. And those that do speak up against corruption are usually known as – Whistleblowers.
A Whistleblower could be anyone; he or she could be a cleaner, a mechanic, a general manager, a CEO, a football player, a kava bar owner, a youth or a pastor. Whistleblowers come from all walks of life, they are usually courageous individuals who have decided to take the stand to go against the injustice at their place of work, their community or in any grouping that they associate with.
Whistle-blowers are people like Mark Felt, the American who was codenamed Deep Throat, his bold decision to spill federal information on the Watergate scandal led up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon who was the 37th President of the United States.
They are people like John Wilson, a former police officer in the Irish Police Force, he “blew the whistle on systematic cancellation of traffic offences by senior police officers in the Irish police force. They alleged that senior police officers had improperly terminated penalties and fines issued to motorists caught speeding and committing other traffic offences1,”
Instead of being celebrated for trying to see an end to this practice, John Wilson was ridiculed, ignored and discredited. Eventually, he had to resign from his job.
In Vanuatu we have our own Whistleblowers, they are the people who refuse to bow down to injustice by leaking information to the media to expose corrupt practices in the organisations that they work in, or in organisations that they affiliate with.
Whistleblower stories in Vanuatu are many, over the year men and women have taken on the Whistleblower role without realising it. It includes stories like that of an individual from the island of Tanna who, in early 2010, blew the whistle on the police there for allegedly being bribed with kava to issue driver’s licenses without following the proper procedure.
It was also alleged that the police were also bribed with kava not to charge people who breach traffic laws.
Furthermore, in late 2015 another courageous individual, who we shall name Mr. B for confidential reasons, had begun to blow the whistle on a senior provincial government official for selling, for personal profit, TC Pam relief supplies.
Mr. B was more than ready to go further in detail on what was being unlawfully committed. He claimed that bags of rice, canned foods, building materials, water bottles, bales of sugar and many more supplies were not being distributed, as intended, to the people of his island, but that all the supplies were stored safely in a storage room belonging to the government official who used the supplies as ‘gifts’ to his immediate families and friends.
It was also raised by Mr. B that the relief items were being sold; cooked rice and canned meat cost VT100 per plate. And if anyone wanted some relief supplies the official made sure that they had to work for it, in return the official gave them some Cyclone Pam relief supplies equivalent only to the amount of work done.
Expectedly, his path continues to face investigative challenges due to ‘official’ affiliations.
Overall, some call these individuals heroes, many others call them traitors, but all these individuals provide information, sometimes secretly, in an attempt to expose the people or organisation they work for.
It is common knowledge that when a person starts to blow the whistle on unlawful activities it is certain that he will immediately begin to lose some of his ‘friends’. Eventually, threats and attacks of all forms will be committed to make sure that the Whistleblower is kept silent.
In 2009, during the Transparency International Annual Members Meeting in Germany, Member Chapters acknowledged that Whistleblowers “have a critical role to play in the protection of the public interest. Therefore, TI calls on governments and on the private sector to put effective mechanisms in place to ensure a safe alternative to silence.”
“Whistleblowing can be a crucial instrument to detect and report corruption, fraud and mismanagement in the public, private and non-profit sector. However, by disclosing wrongdoing or the risk thereof, whistleblowers often take high personal risks. They may face retaliation, dismissal or even physical danger. At the same time, their disclosure is often not appropriately being followed-up. By supporting the protection of whistleblowers, TI promotes integrity and freedom of speech, which are crucial conditions for democracy, the rule of law and sustainable development2,” stated the Resolution on the Protection of Whistleblowers.
In Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) related provisions exist in some jurisdictions to provide full and effective protection to the Whistleblower.
In this regard, governments have a duty to create or strengthen laws and institutions that protect honest and proactive people who report wrongdoing.
Tranparency International declared in 2009, during its Annual Members Meeting, its commitment to support whistleblowers and to work in collaboration with allies, experts and groups of concerned persons such as whistleblower networks to make sure the key role of whistleblowing in the fight against corruption and in promoting public integrity is recognised.
‘I did not even know I was a whistleblower’, http://www.transparencyinternational.eu/2015/06/i-did-not-even-know-i-was-a-whistleblower-2/ ; TI EU Office 1
‘Resolution on the Protection of whistleblowers’,