Sunday, October 25, 2009

Protecting a whistleblower

A question I am often asked is – how do you protect a whistleblower?

Maintaining confidentiality is always the best alternative, but it is often impractical. A great summary of the practical problems that arise with maintaining confidentiality, along with practical alternatives has been prepared by the New South Wales Ombudsman.

A summary of these practical examples, being the minimum steps to be taken in all cases are:

  • Supporting the whistleblower;
  • Providing guidance to the whistleblower of what is expected of them;
  • Provide the whistleblower with information about how the disclosure will be dealt with;
  • Responsibility should be given to someone senior to make sure it is dealt with appropriately and expeditiously;
  • Conduct a prompt investigation; and
  • Respond appropriately.

For more detail on these practical alternatives as well as for when the identity of the whistleblower is or is not likely to become known, click here for the article from the New South Wales Ombudsman.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whistleblower Policy

A whistleblower policy establishes a process that allows the board, employees, volunteers and other interested parties the ability to report in good faith any suspicions they may have regarding illegal, unethical or inappropriate actions.

When developing a Whistleblower Policy, the following should be considered:

  • The policy should include protection for all those involved with the organisation, including directors, employees, volunteers and other with an interest in the organisation (eg. members).
  • The policy should clearly set out what should be reported such as fraud, workplace safety issues, misconduct, breaches of policies, any activity that is illegal, abuse of authority etc.
  • The policy should clearly set out to whom and how someone should report suspicions. The person to whom reports are made should carefully be chosen. For example, it is suggested that it is not someone who has access to the organisation’s funds such as the financial controller as these are people who may be the subject of the reports. It is also appropriate to have a secondary reporting person for when the initial person in on leave or if the report is being made about that person. Also these two people need appropriate training on their responsibilities.
  • The option of using an external whistleblowing service should also be considered rather than utilizing an internal person. These services are readily available and should be investigated. The provider of the services will take reports and either provide those reports to an appropriate person internally to investigate or assist the organisation with the investigation.
  • It is recommended that a “line manager” is not an appropriate reporting person. The reasons for this are that it may be the line manager who the report is being made about and therefore it could make it difficult for the whistleblower to make a report. It requires training all line managers with their responsibilities as a receiver of reports rather than one or two people who deal with the issues on a regular basis.
  • When a person reports their suspicions they must be able to do so without fear of retaliation. However, it must also be clearly set out that a person will be dealt with if the report is made maliciously.
  • People should be able to make reports anonymously if they chose. However, people should understand that by making a report anonymously they may slow down the investigation. For example, the investigator cannot check with the person for additional information.
  • To reduce the possibility of anonymous reports, the policy should clearly promise confidentiality to the extent it is possible. For example, it may be necessary to advise law enforcement of the name of the person who made the report.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whistleblowing – Friend or Foe?

Many of us dodge the term Whistleblower – is it really a ‘dirty word’?

A whistleblower is someone who comes forward with information that has previously been concealed and it may not just be in relation to fraud. It could be in relation to workplace safety issues, harassment, etc.

Think about some of the well known whistleblowers in recent times - Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom and Sherron Watkins of Enron – by coming forward the information they were able to provide resulted in two of the largest corporate frauds in history being discovered.

No matter whether people like it or not, whistleblowing is one of the most effective ways of discovering fraud. In the 2008 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Report to the Nation Survey, it was found that 46.2% of cases of fraud were detected by tip off or a whistleblower. The 2008 BDO Not-for-Profit Fraud Survey found that 38% of fraud was discovered by tip off. The statistics speak for themselves.

So how do we make use of the benefits of whistleblowers while protecting our employees and volunteers? We will address these issues over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Resume Fraud – Is It Real?

A great article on “Resume Fraud: The Top 10 Lies” by Christopher T Marguet, CEO, Marquet International Ltd and Lisa JB Peterson listed the top ten to be:

  1. Stretching Dates of Employment
  2. Inflating Past Accomplishments & Skills
  3. Enhancing Job Titles & Responsibilities
  4. Education Exaggeration & Fabricating Degrees
  5. Unexplained Gaps & Periods of “Self Employment”
  6. Omitting Past Employment
  7. Faking Credentials
  8. Fabricating Reasons for Leaving Previous Jobs
  9. Providing Fraudulent References
  10. Misrepresenting Military Record

Falsifying a resume can cost an organisation significant sums if the employee does not have the skills to undertake the role appropriately or the information omitted related to previous fraud matters.

For more on the article by Marquet International Ltd, please click here.