Saturday, February 24, 2024

Civil society decries inert action on whistle-blowing

Stakeholders have decried that crimes committed by big wicks dent the country’s economy.

They worry that perpetrators go unpunished due to loop holes within legal instruments which they manipulate with ease.

They made their views known at a meeting convened last Wednesday at Woodlane Hotel to draft a code of conduct for whistle blowing.

Even statutes that were supposed to strengthen governance, like the Whistle blowing Act of 2016 have been left with bottlenecks that leave would- be whistleblowers with unbearable burdens they argued. The Act, they said, is silent on how the whistle blowers would be protected from the time s/he decides to disclose information to the time s/he has disclosed it.

“As it is, the Act is around 20 percent operational. It is better for one to remain silent than to risk the consequences one would face for disclosing that incriminating information,” said Pusetso Morapedi, Director for Botswana Center for Public Integrity (BCPI).

BCPI and the Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) have drafted a Code of Good Practice on Whistle blowing to provide guidelines to assist employers and employees on how to make, facilitate, and manage disclosures, as a way of inspiring whistle blowing policies in various organizations, departments and companies in the Botswana context, against the Botswana Whistle blowing Act (2016).

The document seven-page document has been simplified by having its highlighted issues presented in question form. From the ‘prior to disclosure’ of information to after the disclosure; and even how the outcomes of disclosure can be tackled.

Prior to disclosure, the document enquires: ‘Why create the right environment for whistle blowing? What should be included in whistle blowing policy? And who should be involved in whistle blowing procedures.

Under making the disclosure questions raised are: What can disclosure be about? Is there a difference between a grievance and disclosure? Who can make a disclosure and ‘I want to make a disclosure, now what? How do I make a disclosure? Which is the best route? Does it matter when I made the disclosure?

Under after the disclosure it is quizzed: As an employer, what should be immediate steps after a disclosure has been made to us? What am I protected from? What should I do if I am victimized? What do I do if I am dismissed? What are the remedies available? What if someone made a disclosure in bad faith?

A lot of queries were raised about the Act’s regulations stipulated at its Section 23 which are the Minister’s responsibility. Though the Act is as old as six years, the regulations are not available. They do not exist.

The document indicates that it is important for employers to encourage employees to raise concerns that are honest even if they are mistaken. There is legal obligation on employers to take reasonable steps to ensure employees and workers know about whistle blowing policy.

The meeting attracted participants from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like the faith based- Botswana Council of Churches, Business Botswana, BFTU, University of Botswana and the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) was not in attendance though it was invited.

The document is to be presented in the future meeting for Covid-19 Task Force.


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