Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) calls for better whistleblower protection.
“Whistleblowers – and their protection – are important to preserving New Zealand’s reputation,” says TINZ Director, David McNeill. “We expect this to be a poignant issue during the election season.”
The recent fraud case at the Ministry of Transport highlights the ineffectiveness in existing whistleblowing practice – a senior executive stole over $700,000 before she was caught and jailed and the then CEO lost his new position as Auditor-General. Multiple whistleblowers in this case were unfairly treated and effectively squeezed out by the fraudster.
This case highlights the need to improve protection for whistleblowers and the need for accountability and transparency in the public service. It is important to recognise the personal cost whistleblowers face and protect them from discrimination and recrimination. Instead they should be rewarded and celebrated for their honesty, integrity and bravery on behalf of all New Zealanders. We all observe issues of lack probity in our daily lives, and should have the courage – and support – to say “that’s not right”.
The TINZIntegrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessmentprovided this warning:
“In the context where individual chief executives carry the main responsibility for the integrity of their organisations, the ability of staff to speak out about wrongdoing is an important safeguard. But the key legal instrument for this purpose is not working well. The Protected Disclosures Act (2000) seems to have had little impact. State Services Commission’s Integrity and Conduct Surveys have shown that awareness about this Act is low. Few people seek the Act’s protection. A significant number of whistleblowers encounter inaction, and believe they are at risk of retaliation.”
We call on parliament to:
- Release Sir Maarten Wevers’ report into the Auditor-General’s behavior while CEO at the Ministry to help the public understand the environment that fostered fraud and the obstacles faced by whistleblowers
- Strengthen the Protected Disclosures Act (2000) to support and protect whistleblowers.
- We rely on our representatives to make sound decisions on our behalf. In cases like this where there is doubt, they must make strenuous efforts to keep the public informed.
- Fraud and corruption is prevented when there is transparency and accountability at all levels of government and society.
- Transparency around poor decisions and behaviour is essential to our shared learning on ways to prevent future occurrences.