Why whistleblowing should be encouraged in the workplace

Whistleblowers have been found to be one of the most likely means of detecting fraud and corruption, according to the findings of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in its Report to the Nations, 2018.

It is also apparent from the ACFE Report that a significant number of those who reported misconduct did not want their identities known. Whistleblowers often have a fear of being identified or retaliated against for making a disclosure. There have been many examples of whistleblowers in both Australia and overseas, who have paid a heavy price both personally and professionally, in acting ethically and reporting inappropriate behaviours. This issue is further compounded when employees don’t have confidence in the whistleblower framework inside the organisation that they work within.

Here in Australia, a current piece of research being led by Griffith University, called, Whistling While You Work Part 2 is currently analysing how management responds to whistleblowing across both the public and private sectors. The early survey results from that research indicate that most people inside Australian organisations understand how valuable whistleblowers are to uncovering wrongdoing. However, the survey results thus far also indicate that there is a distinct lack of confidence that an organisation will handle a whistleblower complaint appropriately. In PKF’s experience, this lack of trust, unfortunately, leads to a culture of underreporting inside the Australian workplace.

In our Summer 2018 edition of Clarity, Martin Matthews in his article explained the New Legislation: Treasury Laws Amendment (Whistleblowers) Bill 2017 which is likely to be introduced later this year, in recognition of the shortcomings.

Notwithstanding these new reforms, organisations and agencies should carefully consider how they implement a practical and effective reporting framework. The key wording in the legislation in relation to the required whistleblower policy ensures ‘fair treatment’ of a company’s employees. There are a number of components necessary to make this a reality, but a critical mechanism is one which will allow whistleblowers to make disclosures confidently and without fear of reprisal.

One of the mechanisms to do this effectively is through an independent whistleblower hotline, which provides employees with the confidence to escalate suspected incidents of fraud, corruption and misconduct without the fear of recognition, retribution or reprisal.

The employees within an organisation or agency assigned with the responsibility of receiving and/or assessing disclosures received from whistleblowers should also be adequately trained to ensure effective management of such matters. Many organisations and agencies, however, elect to use an outsourced Whistleblower Hotline service as they are independent, often are a fully resourced 24/7 service and staffed by experienced investigation professionals who not only provide the right level of support to whistleblowers but are also able to ensure the right questions are being asked and the appropriate evidence is secured. Organisations need to then also ensure that their internal reporting lines have rigour, different avenues and a degree of independence. When your whistleblower is about to shed light on corrupt behaviour of a senior executive/manager, there are only a limited number of people who can probably help. A Whistleblower Hotline provides a discreet method for the whistleblower to seek assistance which can ensure your business maintains its integrity and reputation.

PKF provides an independent Whistleblower Hotline run by a team of expert investigators.

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