The essence of whistle-blowing

The federal government has recovered about N9.12 bn from its whistle blowing policy, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said this week.
Speaking in Abuja, the minister said that government would amend the policy to accommodate instruments that would deal more with prevention including using mystery shoppers to garner information as obtainable in the United Kingdom.
“The whistleblower team has recently come back from a trip to the United Kingdom,” Adeosun said. “The UK Government was giving us trainings on whistle blowing, how we should institutionalise it. The team spent some time with the Revenue Office in UK. They spent some time in Customs Office and they took them through what they have been able to do.”
Yet, while the Buhari-led administration seems to have understood the need to wrestle corruption to the ground, essentially through the establishment of procedures and practice, probably before now, it pays little or no attention to the area considered vital in fight against corruption – whistle blowing.
Of course, the risk of corruption is significantly heightened in environments where the reporting of wrongdoing is not supported or protected. Public and private sector employees have access to up-to-date information concerning their workplaces’ practices, and are usually the first to recognise wrongdoings.
However, those who report wrongdoings can be intimidated, harassed, dismissed or be subjected to violence by their fellow colleagues or superiors.
State’s protection for whistleblowers, therefore, is essential to encourage the reporting of misconduct, fraud and corruption. Providing effective protection for whistleblowers supports an open organisational culture where employees are not only aware of how to report but also have confidence in the reporting procedures.
It also helps businesses prevent and detect bribery in commercial transactions. The protection of both public and private sector whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting in good faith suspected acts of corruption and other wrongdoing is, therefore, integral to efforts to combat corruption, safeguard integrity, enhance accountability, and support a clean business environment.
There is no doubt that if battle against corruption should be won, all stakeholders, indeed Nigerians, must be involved. It is, certainly, not a fight to be fought only by the anti-corruption agencies that, at this juncture, must be commended for the successes they have recorded.
It is advisable, therefore, for the Buhari-led administration to, essentially and quickly too, champion the whistleblowers bill at the National Assembly where, it must be said, corruption appears deeply rooted and whose members may hesitate to pass the proposed bill.
Translating whistleblower protection into legislation legitimises and structures the mechanisms under which whistleblowers can disclose wrongdoings in the public and private sectors and protects them against reprisals.
If adequately implemented, legislation protecting whistleblowers can become one of the most effective tools to support anti-corruption initiatives of the present administration, and detect and combat corrupt acts, fraud and mismanagement. The absence of appropriate legislation impedes the fight against corruption and exposes whistleblowers to risks of retaliation. Enactment of a comprehensive, dedicated law as the basis for providing whistleblower protection is generally considered the most effective legislative means of providing such protection.
Protection of whistleblowers may also be provided for by specific provisions in different laws, such as in the criminal code, labour laws or laws regulating public servants. A criminal code may impose a fine and/or imprisonment for retaliation against a whistleblower that provides information about the commission or possible commission of an offence to law enforcement authorities while labour law may protect workers against retaliation by employers when they report work related offences.
Whistle blower protection may also be provided for by specific laws, such as anti-corruption laws, competition laws, accounting laws, environmental protection laws, and company and securities laws.
The Buhari-led administration must also, through all means, sensitise workers on dangers posed by corruption to society and the need to be part of efforts to end it.
In fact, it must be pointed out to everyone that, in the end, to be successful as a nation, we must fight and kill corruption together or get collectively annihilated by the monster.
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