Why we need whistleblowers

Are whistleblowers the unsung heroes of our time?

The story of Edward Snowden reminds us that this service to the public is rarely rewarded and is often rendered at a personal cost.

Snowden who is widely known for leaking classified information from the US National Security Agency was forced to flee to Russia after releasing the documents.

Snowden and many others like him point to the reality that we “still have a culture that regards whistleblowing as tattletaling” says Lorraine Martin, who manages the Whistleblower Programme at the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC).

“We call whistleblowers snitches.”

Yet in an age that is rife with secrecy, corruption and criminal activity we need people who will speak the truth no matter the price.

What is whistleblowing?

“Whistleblowing is about raising a concern over wrongdoing within an organisation” says Martin.

A whistle-blower is typically someone who has witnessed a wrongful act and tries to expose it.

Is whistleblowing a sign of openness or secrecy?

“Whistleblowing is about transparency and accountability.”

In an ideal world people would feel free to openly report illicit behaviour. The disclosure would then be taken seriously, investigated and corrected.

Blowing the whistle on corruption

Whistleblowing plays a very important role in fighting corruption, especially by employees within an organisation.

“Employees are at the coal face and they are usually the people who notice that wrongdoing is taking place and therefore they need to be protected for coming forward.”

How can we protect whistle-blowers?

It is primarily the responsibility of management to institute policies that protect whistle-blowers.

“They need to be taken seriously and their identities need to be kept confidential.”

“If anyone in the workplace victimises a whistleblower management must institute disciplinary steps against such an individual.”

For more insights join the whistleblowing seminar hosted by UCT [email protected]

By Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing