Stiff fines for false whistleblowing could weaken the law

23 February 2017 | Government

A Namibian policy think tank warns that the excessive penalties for false disclosures proposed in the Whistleblower Protection Bill could backfire and severely weaken the bill's intention to encourage whistleblowing.

Instead of encouraging reports on corruption and other wrongdoing in the public and private sectors, the threat of a N$100 000 fine or a 20-year jail term would act as a disincentive, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) comments on the recently tabled bill.

The IPPR welcomes the tabling of the bill, stating that it indicated Namibia's commitment to the UN Convention Against Corruption.

Nevertheless, while praising several aspects of the bill, the IPPR cautions that the risk of incurring stiff penalties could deter potential whistleblowers.

The IPPR argues that the punishment for false reporting should not be the same as the punishment for preventing disclosure of improper conduct.

“If lawmakers feel it has to be left in the bill then the maximum punishment should be vastly reduced,” it advises.

The IPPR believes that the penalties for false reporting are “unnecessary and could undermine the whole purpose of the bill, which is to encourage whistleblowers to come forward rather than to frighten off genuine whistleblowers who may already be nervous about the process.”

The IPPR emphasises that whistleblowers already face nerve-wracking hurdles before coming forward, as their information could “involve going against friends and colleagues and making powerful enemies”.

Another major concern is the independence of the oversight bodies.

The IPPR warns that if the agencies associated with the whistleblower protection law are perceived to be primarily arms of government lacking in-built guarantees of independence, they will not gain credibility with the public.

One recommendation is to ensure that those appointed to the Whistleblower Protection Office are sufficiently independent from government.

As it stands, the process by which the commissioner and the deputy commissioners will be appointed by the president and with the approval of the National Assembly does not adequately ensure the independence of the office, it says.

This lack of sufficient independence is underlined by the fact that the commissioner is allowed to appoint investigating officers, but in the case of special administrators it has to be done with the approval of the minister of justice, the IPPR states.

The IPPR recommends that a transparent process involving public interviews by an independent panel is necessary when appointing the commissioner.

The IPPR further recommends that the independence of the office should be emphasised in the law, which could mean an additional clause stating that no interference in the work of the office would be tolerated.

The bill currently favours state officials, specifically within the proposed Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee.

“The committee is heavily weighted in favour of state officials. Instead, the committee should be a more balanced body including representatives of various professional bodies,” the IPPR recommends. Representatives could be selected from the churches, civil society, and individuals such as retired judges and journalists.

Another concern is that the bill stipulates that disclosures of improper conduct may only be protected if disclosures are made in good faith.

The IPPR argues that as long as information exposes wrongdoing and the whistleblower believes the disclosures to be true, their motivations should not be relevant.

The IPPR recommends that the clause be removed from the bill and emphasises that it is difficult for “any designated agency to second-guess the motives of a person making a disclosure”.

One of the positive aspects of the bill is the comprehensive list of detrimental actions that a whistleblower should be protected from, including dismissal, redundancy, demotion, transfer or disciplinary action, discriminatory treatment and a change in working conditions.

Also, the submission notes that the definition of improper conduct is wide-ranging and the bill offers numerous options for making disclosures.

The bill furthermore is applicable to government officials as well as the private sector.

The IPPR emphasises the importance of public education, saying that the Whistleblower Protection Office has the responsibility to educate the public about the provisions of the law and the necessity of exposing improper conduct.

JANA-MARI SMITH

Similar News

 

Rent battle intensifies

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Government

Rent control boards that protected tenants from exploitation by property owners during the apartheid era are still implementable in Namibia and are not unconstitutional.This was...

RCC thought they could get away with it -...

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Government

A ministerial technical committee has been tasked to urgently compile a dossier for cabinet, with recommendations on disciplinary action and the way forward for the...

Poverty minister calls out food bank critics

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Government

Bishop Zephania Kameeta, the minister of poverty eradication, yesterday took to task National Council members who had lashed out at the food bank programme and...

Chinese money grab

4 days ago - 23 May 2018 | Government

While two ministers have voiced stern opposition to the deal between the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) and Chinese firm Jiangsu Nantong Sanjian, the parastatal's board...

Geingob's approval rating soars

4 days ago - 23 May 2018 | Government

While a majority of Namibians gave the government bad grades for its handling of issues such as job creation and the economy, President Hage Geingob...

PSEMAS faces possible collapse

5 days ago - 22 May 2018 | Government

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein says the current rot being experienced at the Public Service Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS) may eventually cause its collapse.The scheme currently...

N$6m for rundown house

1 week ago - 18 May 2018 | Government

Former Oshana governor Sylvanus Vatuva has received a massive N$6 million windfall for his rundown property and mahangu field at the Omungwelume settlement, which is...

Tweya to respond to AR

1 week ago - 18 May 2018 | Government

Trade minister Tjekero Tweya has confirmed he has received a letter from the Affirmative Repositioning movement outlining government's alleged failure to deliver on its promises...

Works denies selling govt flats

1 week ago - 17 May 2018 | Government

The Ministry of Works and Transport says it is not selling any government flats, as it does not have the mandate to do so.An SMS...

MPs want total gambling ban

1 week ago - 17 May 2018 | Government

Some members of the National Council want gambling banned in totality. Their argument is premised on the fact that gambling perpetuates social ills and is...

Latest News

Rent battle intensifies

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Government

Rent control boards that protected tenants from exploitation by property owners during the apartheid era are still implementable in Namibia and are not unconstitutional.This was...

RCC thought they could get...

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Government

A ministerial technical committee has been tasked to urgently compile a dossier for cabinet, with recommendations on disciplinary action and the way forward for the...

Skorpion’s production steady in 2017

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Business

Jo-Maré Duddy – Vedanta Zinc International’s wholly-owned Skorpion Zinc mine near Rosh Pinah in Namibia produced 84 000 tonnes of refined metal in its financial...

What will make or break...

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Columns

Here are 13 tips for starting a business and making it succeed.1. Know yourself, your true motivational level, the amount of money...

Taking NWR to another level...

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | People

hen and protect the financial condition of the company,” said Talita Horn, chief financial officer at NWR. Talita Horn did consulting and assurance work...

Informal sector exploits workers

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Labour

Namibia faces key developmental challenges such as a growing informal economy, lack of decent and secure jobs and insufficient social protection for workers.However, employment created...

Africa briefs

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | Economics

South Africa's outlook for tax revenues unchangedSouth Africa finance minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Tuesday that the outlook for tax revenues remain unchanged, in a...

The man behind the Katoshe...

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | People

Gabby Tjiroze - His future was unpredictable and hard to imagine, but today he is the mastermind behind Katoshe D30 - a mobile phone that...

Don't compromise security - Tsowaseb

3 days ago - 24 May 2018 | People

The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) has many priorities and security is definitely at the top of the list. Careers spoke to NSA security manager Titus...

Load More