Thursday, 4 October 2012

More protection for whistleblowers

Malaysia has joined more than 50 countries in introducing the whistleblower protection laws in varying scopes as part of their anti-corruption efforts.

The laws are meant to encourage individuals to speak out if they find corrupt practices or improper conduct in their workplace.

It provides protection to informers, or “whistleblowers”, in terms of confidentiality of information as well as immunity from civil and criminal action.

The 1863 United States False Claims Act was one of the first laws meant to protect whistleblowers. Enacted during former US president Abraham Lincoln's administration, the act was targeted at catching dishonest suppliers during the American Civil War who would provide ill horses or faulty rifles and ammunition to the Union Military.

Under the act, whistleblowers are not only protected from wrongful dismissal, but also promised a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government.

The US have different types of legal protections for whistleblowers, depending on the subject matter and the state which the case arises.

The Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912 allowed civil servants to furnish information to the US House of Congress and protects the whistleblower from “unwarranted” and “abusive” removal.

Employee protections were also introduced in several US environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act 1972, Safe Drinking Water Act 1974, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 1976, Toxic Substances Control Act 1976 and the Clean Air Act 1990.

Under most of these laws, informers are accorded incentives and rewards.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 2010 authorises the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to reward those who divulge information on federal securities law violations at companies that are required to report to SEC.

The law also prevents employers from retaliating against whistleblowers by firing, demoting, suspending, harassing or discriminating them.

Similarly, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 in the United Kingdom protects employees from detrimental treatment by their employers, such as dismissal or being passed over for promotion. If any employee feels he or she has a case, it may be brought before an employment tribunal, which can decide whether to award compensation or not.

Jamaica recently approved the Protected Disclosures Act 2011, which is modelled on UK's Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Malaysia's Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 came into force on Dec 15 2010, and is part of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP)'s National Key Results Area (NKRA) to eliminate corruption.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the Act was developed on the best practices of the law in developed countries and following the success of its implementation in the United States and Europe.

Under the act, individuals who expose corrupt practices in the public and private sectors are promised confidentiality and immunity from criminal or civil charges.


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