“Snitches don’t have to get stitches” – why you need a Whistleblower Policy in your Organization;
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the exceptions to the semantic realm of ‘snitches get stitches’ is the word “whistleblower”. A whistleblower is defined as a person who reveals something clandestine or who informs against another. In an employment setup, a whistleblower can be defined as an employee who brings wrongdoing by an employer or by other employees to the attention of the employer, a government, or a law enforcement agency.
The Legal Framework Governing Whistleblowing in Kenya;
The foundation of whistleblowing in Kenya can be traced back to Section 9 of the Bribery Act [hereinafter “the Act”], which places a duty on public and private entities to put in place procedures appropriate to their size and the nature of their operation, for the prevention of bribery and corruption. Under the said Act, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission [EACC] is mandated to assist private entities, public entities, and any interested person to develop and put in place procedures for the purposes of the said legal provision.
In 2021, the office of the Attorney General, in consultation with the EACC, published the “Guidelines to assist Public and Private Entities in the preparation of Procedures for the Prevention of Bribery and Corruption” [hereinafter “the Guidelines”] with the purpose to assist the public and private entities to prepare procedures for the prevention of bribery and corruption.
The Guiding Principles When Developing Whistleblowing Procedures;
As per the Guidelines, when developing procedures for the prevention of bribery and corruption within an entity, the following principles ought to be taken into account:-
- The prevention procedures should be in writing and in the Kenyan official languages;
- During the development of the policies, the entity shall assess and map out bribery and corruption risks in its operations and develop a plan to mitigate such risks;
- The prevention procedures ought to provide for an implementation structure or arrangement that takes into account the size, scale, and nature of operations of the entity and the identified risks;
- The procedures ought to provide sufficient mechanisms to facilitate efficient and effective reporting of bribery and corruption within the entity and facilitate, among other things, confidentiality and protection of whistleblowers, informants, and witnesses;
- The procedures shall designate a person or persons in authority to set up an enforcement structure; and
- The procedures should provide for effective communication, training, awareness-creation, and dissemination to internal and external stakeholders on the bribery and corruption prevention procedures established by the entity.
Why You Need A ‘Whistle Blowing’ Policy and Procedure in Your Organization;
Every public and private entity is expected to have whistleblowing policies and procedures. While the Act and the Guidelines set out the basis for the development of the procedures to be used in the reporting of bribery and corruption, whistleblowing policies within an organization can cover a wider scope and provide an avenue for reporting other inappropriate acts such as; malpractice, fraud, failure to comply with laws and regulations, crimes and concealment of crimes, abuse and other inappropriate acts or omissions that would prejudice the interests of the entity.
With the rampant increase of fraud and illegal activity within the workspace, the presence of a watertight whistleblower system is likely to reduce the likelihood of illegal activity and create a significant reduction in fraud cases. There are several benefits that a whistleblowing system can bring to an entity, such as:-
- Violators are held accountable – unlike a system where employees are unable to report any illegal activities within an organization for fear of being exposed, the presence of a whistleblower system encourages people to expose wrongdoing which is a major factor in combating fraud, corruption, and illegal activities.
- Provides protection to whistleblowers – a policy that guarantees confidentiality and protection to whistleblowers ensures that employees who come forward on illegal practices within the Organization do not face retaliation or victimization from their colleagues or from their employers. This also ensures the whistleblower’s right to access justice is guaranteed, as any employer who violates the policy faces fines or a lawsuit.
- Reduces reputational risks – Reports of illegal activities within an entity may create bad press for an organization. Creating an internal mechanism and an enforcement structure to handle such incidents safeguards the Organization’s reputation.
- Promotes a better work culture – a whistleblower system safeguards a safe culture within a workplace and allows employees to voice their concerns without fear of repercussions.
So what next, after providing an avenue for the “whistle” to be blown?
In conclusion, a whistleblower system does more than provide an avenue for the “whistle” to be blown. It helps in promoting proper corporate culture checks and balances by ensuring that issues are dealt with before they escalate to unmanageable levels that can lead to financial and/or reputational loss. It helps an organization comply with the laid down laws and procedures and ensures specific procedures are set out to ensure a safe and ethical way of handling concerns within an organization.
How can we help?
Do you have a Whistleblowing policy in your Company? If not, look no further. At Riskhouse International, we have a policy review and development program led by seasoned lawyers and fraud experts. We are available to help review the processes and operations within your Organization, develop a tailor-made whistleblower policy that fits your organizational needs, and offer continuous period reviews on the policy.
To learn more about our policy review and development program and to catch up on our other news and alerts, you can visit our blog through our website at https://riskhouse.co.ke/blog/.