G20 whistleblower protection laws lacking

Professor AJ Brown has unveiled a new report on whistleblower protection in G20 countries.
Professor AJ Brown has unveiled a new report on whistleblower protection in G20 countries.

The protection of whistleblowers is falling short in G20 countries despite commitments to bring regulations up to standard.

A new report, unveiled at a ‘Corruption, Integrity Systems and the G20’ conference by Griffith University researcher, Professor AJ Brown, identifies four key areas for improvement across both private and public sectors.

Also at the Brisbane conference, one of the world’s leading anti-corruption activists urged the Australian government to take the lead in making the G20’s anti-corruption plan a priority in 2014.

Elena Panfilova, Director of Transparency International Russia, called for G20 nations to put an end to secrecy around offshore companies and implement beneficial ownership registers.

“Your government has an incredible opportunity to create a legacy which will stay if it makes G20 countries sign up to ending secrecy around offshore companies and if they make it absolutely obligatory to check the nature of money travelling between our countries.”

The Whistleblower Protection Rules in G20 Countries: The Next Action Plan report was released ahead of the G20 summit to be held in Brisbane later this year.

Professor Brown, from Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, collaborated with researchers from the University of Melbourne and NGO Blueprint for Free Speech on the international project.

He outlined the main findings at a Corruption, Integrity Systems and the G20 Conference in Brisbane yesterday (Wed).

Four years ago, G20 countries declared that by 2012 adequate measures would be in place to protect whistleblowers and provide them with safe, reliable avenues for reporting corruption, fraud and other crimes.

“The report shows that they have not yet met this commitment despite the public pledge to shield whistleblowers from retaliation,” Professor Brown said.

The report is the first independent evaluation of all G20 countries’ whistleblowing laws for both the private and public sectors. It scores the G20 countries’ laws (1, 2, 3) across a range of criteria for protection of whistleblowers and includes comparison tables for public and private sector laws.

Key areas for improvement include (i) adequate internal and external disclosure avenues, (ii) improved protections for employees to anonymously report wrongdoing, (iii) an independent investigative body for whistleblowers’ disclosures and complaints, (iv) and transparent and accountable application of whistleblower laws.

Australia had the best score for public sector protection laws, but scored only in the middle of the pack for protections in the private sector.

“Whistleblowing is widely accepted as an effective way to expose misconduct, dishonesty and illegal activity in the public and private spheres,” co-author, Dr Suelette Dreyfus from University of Melbourne, said. “Technology enables things like anonymous and confidential reporting of fraud and corruption.

“Whistleblowers improve governance, transparency and accountability in governments and corporations.”

The report warns inadequate legal protections may deter whistleblowers from coming forward, due to fear of retribution, and can help perpetuate government and corporate misconduct and corruption.

The report was released online by Blueprint for Free Speech and isalso being launched this week at a whistleblower conference at the OECD’s Paris headquarters and the C20 Conference at University of Melbourne.

The researchers on the report are Simon Wolfe and Dr Suelette Dreyfus from the University of Melbourne/Blueprint, Mark Worth of Blueprint for Free Speech, and Professor AJ Brown at Griffith University.