Scope for whistleblower protection too narrow, say experts

Topic: Whistleblower Protection Act Webinar

Coverage by: Free Malaysia Today

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PETALING JAYA: Anti-corruption experts have identified multiple issues with the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, which limits who can be protected by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), stating that these problems must be addressed to restore public trust and increase reporting.

Taking part in an online presentation today, they noted that the scope for legally being considered a “whistleblower” is too narrow and can result in those attempting to expose wrongdoing being left without MACC protection.

Abu Kassim Mohamed, director-general of the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre, said because protection is only afforded to those who report offences to an official authority, internal compliance units within companies could harm whistleblowers who report to them before reaching out to the authorities.

“If the chief integrity officer at a company refuses to investigate for some reason, and only then does the staff member go to law enforcement, under my interpretation, that is a disclosure to a third party,” he said.

Because the whistleblower has gone to a third party first, he said, the person might have unintentionally waived the right to whistleblower protection.

This needs to be amended so that internal compliance officers are included as enforcement authority to better protect whistleblowers, he said.

Punitha Silivarajoo, Research and Policy director at the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department, who is working on reforming the Act, said due to rules allowing those culpable in the reported wrongdoing to have their protection revoked, the law discourages the people with the most telling knowledge to come forward.

“If the whistleblower themselves have participated in the improper conduct, what happens to them? Is it fair for their protection to be revoked? They are doing us a favour, should they lose their protection for revealing something to us?”

She said these failures of the current Act create a “trust deficit” among the public and discourages those with important information from coming forward out of fear of internal or legal repercussions.

Punitha said the law is currently under review, and once the necessary consultation is done with NGOs, civil society organisations and government-linked companies, the public will be able to weigh in on the recommendations.

The presentation, organised by the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism was themed “Breaking the Chain of Corruption: Whistleblowers Vital to Break the Chain of Corruption. Is There Protection?”




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