Monday, February 16, 2009

Whistleblowers needed to protect stimulus package

This article by FAIR makes sense PR

Canada has also made little use of whistleblower protection—a highly effective method of combating misconduct and fraud. A 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers study showed that whistleblowers uncovered far more fraud than internal audit and all other management control systems combined. The study, which polled 5,400 senior executives from 40 countries, found that 43 per cent of corporate frauds had been initially detected by employee tip-offs.

The lesson is clear: top-down controls such as regulatory oversight and corporate governance standards are not sufficient: they need to be augmented by strong mechanisms that enable employees to safely report suspected misconduct.
This is why the U.S. is moving to strengthen its already wide-ranging whistleblower protection legislation. However, on this important front we Canadians are essentially naked.

For government whistleblowers the Accountability Act’s much-touted “ironclad protection” has been a huge disappointment, as predicted by critics even before this loophole-ridden legislation was passed into law. The new whistleblower watchdog, the public sector integrity commissioner, watches over approximately 400,000 federal public servants in a secretive bureaucracy that spends about half a billion dollars every day. It defies belief that, during her first year of operation, with a staff of 21 and a budget of $6.5-million, commissioner Christiane Ouimet has been unable to find a single occurrence of wrongdoing in the entire federal public service.

As for private sector whistleblowers, the government has not even made a pretence of any effort to protect them. While Canadians who work for corporations listed on a U.S. stock exchange may have some protection under the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, Canadians in the private sector have no such shield against corporate reprisals.

What this means in practice is that conscientious employees who courageously come forward in an attempt to halt misconduct not only have their allegations ignored, but are typically subject to the most determined and vindictive reprisals, orchestrated by their bosses, in order to silence and punish them. Most lose their careers and their livelihood, and in the process many also lose their families and their health.

We all lose as a result. Our government departments and corporations, unable to purge themselves of these self-serving actors, lose touch with their values and their purpose. And both investors and employees lose as our businesses stumble, shedding jobs and market value while our governments fumble.

In tough economic times it becomes even more important to ensure that scarce resources are available for vital services like education and health care, rather than being wasted.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s lead by providing real protection for both government and private sector employees who report misconduct. By doing so he would not only help to safeguard his multi-billion dollar stimulus spending, but would help protect the integrity of our institutions, our economy and our democratic way of life.

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