Despite recommendations and protective standards set by Transparency International, whistleblower activities have been minimal around the world due to the fear of employer retaliation, which may result in job termination, demotion, or other disciplinary action.
But the major problem is lack of standardized implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) ratified by over 160 countries for the protection of whistleblowers. For example, the Council of Europe developed two major legal documents vis-a-vis the Civil Convention on Corruption and the Penal Convention on Corruption provide whistleblower laws and mechanisms to receive reports, disclosures and investigate wrongdoings in the public sector. But a 2017 OECD survey found such laws to be incomprehensive, scandal-driven, and ineffective because they are not in compliance with international standards.
- Canada: Whistleblower protection in Canada is a responsibility of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) which protects public servants from reprisal attacks after disclosing wrongdoing. It also offers cover for anyone who has cooperated in investigations. The main objective of PSIC is to improve public confidence and trust in Canada’s federal public institutions as well as strengthen public servants’ integrity. The Office was established by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (The Act) of 15 April, 2007 which made it an independent and permanent Agent of Parliament, offering whistleblower protection to over 500,000 public servants. A setback to this goal is that not all disclosures result in an investigation because the Act stipulates the jurisdiction of the Commissioner and, under some circumstances, gives the option not to investigate. This challenge was responsible for lapses in Canada’s handling of COVID-19 cases related to fraud and profiteering. To encourage citizens’ commitment to enforcing accountability in acceptance and use of government financial supports—including scientific evidence and the administration of health services, the Act also mandated the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (PSDPT) which protects whistleblowers in the public sector by hearing reprisal complaints—particularly those referred by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The Canadian government, thus, metes out disciplinary actions against persons/organizations who take reprisals. Compensations are also available for complainants who faced retaliatory actions from their employers. How these mechanisms functioned during COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed in the research.
- United Kingdom: Whistleblower rights in the United Kingdom was established by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) which allows protected disclosures whether a non-disclosure agreement was signed between past or present recruiter and an employee or not. A debate on if there should be further restrictions on confidentiality clauses was held in 2019. But, most remarkably, the “The Freedom to Speak Up Review” outlined twenty principles intended to improve whistleblower protection for NHS workers. The relevance of PIDA, which amends the Employment Rights Act 1996, including how PIDA enhanced NHS performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be discussed in the forthcoming research.:
Choice of country for this academic inquiry would be Canada, with references made to whistleblower protection laws and issues in countries like France, Japan, UK, and the United States.
From the results of this study, recommendations will be made on how governments can improve legal frameworks to protect whistleblowers, build trust among employees and observers, revitalise whistleblowing channels, improve corporate compliance and prevent unnecessary loss of lives in the future – as would have been the case if the Chinese government had taken responsibility to protect its citizens and the world, long before Li Wenliang’s public outcry. But it is necessary for the whistleblowing standards/principles to be adapted to each country’s political, social and cultural contexts, including their existing legislative frameworks.
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