A tick-box approach to whistleblowing policies within an organisation will not motivate employees to speak out, says ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). Private and public entities need to ensure there is a cultural commitment to whistleblowing.
At a time when reported cases of whistleblowing are on the increase and gaining prominence in both the private and public sectors, such as the nurse who blew the whistle at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, and employers preventing employees from speaking out through gagging clauses in their contracts, ACCA says now is the time to get disclosure rules right.
Gillian Fawcett, ACCA’s head of public sector, said: 'For managers to simply put policies in place within an organisation won’t result in an effective whistleblowing environment. This cannot be a tick-box exercise. There are many benefits to a more embedded disclosure regime, including a more open and transparent organistation and in tackling fraud and corruption, but an organisation’s cultural commitment to the value of whistleblowing is at the heart of addressing the question of motivating prospective whistleblowers.
'It is vital that those who are minded to disclose relevant information are convinced that, where they do so in good faith, the information they disclose is going to be treated seriously and, where appropriate, investigated and dealt with in the right way. Often, those who speak out within or outside an enterprise are regarded as troublemakers who cannot be relied upon. If individuals do not believe their disclosure will be handled properly then matters which are potentially important to the governance of the entity will not be made.'
ACCA says that lessons can be learnt from the introduction of other legislation, such as the Race Relations (amendment) Act 2000, which required public bodies to comply with a positive race equality duty, requiring them to go beyond the policies and put arrangements in place to raise staff awareness through training programmes and on-going monitoring and support. This approach was critical for raising staff awareness about their responsibilities under the Act and what it meant for their work. It also helped to instil confidence in the process.
ACCA, which has welcomed and responded to the consultation issued by the Public Concern at Work Whistleblowing Commission, warned against using financial or other incentives for potential whistleblowers.
John Davies, ACCA’s head of technical, said: 'Financial or other rewards for whistleblowers are not consistent with the culture and philosophy of UK in the context of ‘public interest’ disclosure. The motive for blowing the whistle should always involve not the prospect of personal gain but a concern to disclose information which is material to the cause of good and open governance, the non-disclosure of which would allow an illegal, unethical or otherwise dysfunctional situation to continue.
'The prospect of financial reward should not, as a rule, influence a decision as to whether or not to disclose relevant information. The danger, as we see it, is that a regime which offered substantial financial pay-outs to whistleblowers as an encouragement to the reporting of information would undermine the integrity of the concept of whistleblowing, and make it more difficult to achieve the buy-in of management and governance bodies.'
This is not the first time ACCA has spoken out about whistleblowing. In ACCA’s report Setting high professional standards for public services around the world which was updated for 2013, it called for whistleblowing laws and policies to be promoted by finance professionals working in the public sector around the world, to ensure that communities can have full confidence in how their taxes are being spent. Overall, finance professionals have a critical role to play in building public trust by championing the cause of developing anti-corruption procedures and cultures.
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For more information, please contact:
Steve Rudaini, ACCA Newsroom
+ 44 (0) 207 059 5622
+44 (0) 7801 133985
Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5759
+44 (0)7725 498654
Notes to Editors
- ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.
- We support our 162,000 members and 426,000 students in 173 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 89 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.
- Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.