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Do you know your baksheesh from your bribery? Your cronyism from your collusion? Read our glossary of terms relating to corruption to find out what they all mean.
U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre
ACCESS TO INFORMATION – the right by law, often through freedom of information legislation (acts or laws), to access key facts and data from the government and any public body based on the notion that citizens can obtain information which is in the possession of the state.
ACCOUNTABILITY – this denotes a relationship between a bearer of a right and the agents or agencies responsible for fulfilling or respecting that right. As a basic example, it could be a relationship between a person entrusted with a particular task or certain powers or resources, and the person on whose behalf the task is undertaken. Accountability may be fulfilled in various ways, but there are three elements in common:
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE BRIBERY – active bribery refers to the offence committed by the person who promises or gives the bribe; as contrasted to passive bribery, which is the offence committed by the official who receives the bribe. Active bribery occurs on the supply side, passive bribery on the demand side.
It is important to note that active bribery does not always mean that the briber has taken the initiative. In fact, often the reverse is true. The individual who receives the bribe often demanded it in the first place. In a sense, then, he or she is the more active party in the transaction.
ASSET FORFEITURE AND RECOVERY – involve the seizure and confiscation of assets tainted because of their connection with a crime (they were used in committing the crime or were derived from it). Recovery is the process by which governments repatriate the proceeds of corruption hidden in foreign jurisdictions, to the country of origin.
AUDITING – refers to an official examination of an organisation or institution’s accounts, to make sure money has been spent according to rules, regulations and norms. South Africa’s auditor-general is one of a number of audit institutions which make a vital contribution to good governance by detecting poor management and inappropriate use of public money. Auditing institutions can be considered the taxpayers’ independent and professional watchdogs.
BAKSHEESH [backsheesh, bakshis] – an Arabic term for a relatively small amount of money given to a beggar or for services rendered (as to a waiter): alms, tips, gratuity, pourboire. Where the amount of baksheesh is inflated or demands for it are illegitimate, baksheesh is synonymous with bribe or grease money.
BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP SECRECY – a beneficial owner is the real person who ultimately owns, controls or benefits from a company or trust fund and the income it generates. The term is used to contrast with the legal or nominee company owners and with trustees, all of whom might be registered as the legal owners of an asset without actually possessing the right to enjoy its benefits. Complex and opaque corporate structures set up across different jurisdictions, make it easy to hide the beneficial owner, especially when nominees are used in their place and when part of the structure is incorporated in a secrecy jurisdiction.
BRIBERY – the act of offering someone money, services or other valuables, in order to persuade him or her to do something in return. Bribery is corruption by definition. Bribes are also called kickbacks, baksheesh, payola, hush money, sweetener, protection money, boodle, gratuity etc. Bribery is widely criminalised through international and national laws. In particular, the bribing of foreign officials is outlawed by the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.
BUREAUCRATIC CORRUPTION (see PETTY CORRUPTION) – also referred to as petty corruption, this takes place at the implementation end of politics, where the public meets public officials. Bureaucratic corruption is usually distinguished from grand and political corruption (to the extent it is possible to distinguish administration from politics). Bureaucratic corruption usually involves smaller amounts of money, but the damage may be significant, in monetary and political terms, if it is happening in a systemic manner.
CAPITAL FLIGHT – this is money that shifts out of a country, whether legally or illegally. Illegal capital flight is intended to disappear from any record in the country of origin. Earnings on the stock of illegal flight capital outside of a country do not normally return to the country of origin. Illegal flight capital can be generated through a number of means, including trade mispricing, bulk cash movements, hawala transactions, smuggling, among others.
CHECKS AND BALANCES – these are a common reference to the institutional mechanisms for preventing power abuse. Often, they are constitutional controls whereby the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judiciary) and other state institutions have powers over each other so that no single branch will dominate.
CIVIL SOCIETY – the arena, outside of the family, state and market where people associate to advance a common set of interests. Voluntary and community groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade unions and faith-based organisations commonly are included in this sphere, making the term broader than an NGO.
CLIENTELISM (see PATRONAGE) – a form of patronage in which an informal relationship exists between people of different social and economic status: a ‘patron’ (boss, big man) and his ‘clients’ (dependants, followers, protégés). The relationship includes a mutual but unequal exchange of favours, which can be corrupt. Patrimonial and clientelist practices can institutionalise hegemonic elites and political corruption, often reaching the highest ranks of state power.
COLLUSION – a secret agreement between parties, in the public and/or private sector, to conspire to commit actions aimed to deceive or commit fraud with the objective of illicit financial gain. The parties involved often are referred to as ‘cartels’.
COMPETITIVE BIDDING – a selection process based on the principle of open and transparent advertisement of an item or service, which ensures that the best bidder wins according to qualifications, value and other objective criteria (and consequently not according to family or friendship ties, bribery or threats). Competitive bidding processes are often required by law on public contracts and purchases above a certain value.
COMPLIANCE – the procedures, systems or departments within public agencies or companies that ensure all legal, operational and financial activities are in conformity with current laws, rules, norms, regulations, standards and public expectations.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST – this arises when an individual with a formal responsibility to serve the public participates in an activity that jeopardises his or her professional judgment, objectivity and independence. Often this activity (such as a private business venture) primarily serves personal interests and can potentially influence the objective exercise of the individual’s official duties.
CONTROLLED, UNCONTROLLED CORRUPTION – in some countries you will find centralised, co-ordinated and disciplined corruption, while decentralised, disordered and irregular corruption exists in others. These are ideal types – most countries can be characterised as somewhere in-between.
In cases of controlled corruption, for example in the former Soviet Union or South Korea and Taiwan, the ruling elite have a relatively strict control of the processes and proceeds of corruption. Businesses will also be able to forecast and estimate the level of corruption, and include it as a measurable expense – controlled corruption, therefore, will not be a major impediment to investments and trade.
In countries with uncontrolled corruption, corruption tends to be more common and unpredictable. The rulers are not in command of who will gain how much, or from what. Uncontrolled corruption is generally considered more harmful for a country’s economy, although controlled corruption also can have harmful economic effects in the long-term.
CONVENTIONS – these are international and regional agreements signed or formally adopted through ratification by multiple states that establish rules, laws and standards on issues which are typically cross-border in nature and require a common approach for effective, multilateral cooperation.
CORRUPTION – According to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, corruption occurs when one party gives another party anything of value with the purpose of influencing them to abuse their power. A broader definition, used by Transparency International, is the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain. Corruption Watch’s definition is similar, “the abuse of public resources or public power for personal gain”.
CRIMINAL FORFEITURE – following a criminal conviction, criminal forfeiture refers to the confiscation by the state of proceeds of a crime for which a conviction has been recorded.
CRONYISM (see CLIENTELISM and PATRONAGE) – this refers to the favourable treatment of friends and associates in the distribution of resources and positions, regardless of their objective qualifications.
CUSTOMER DUE DILIGENCE – this is the obligation for financial institutions to implement processes for the identification of those customers on whose behalf they maintain or operate accounts or conduct transactions.
DEBARMENT – a company is debarred by a government or multilateral agency when it is formally prohibited from tendering for projects that the government or agency is funding (or supporting the funding for). This happens if, after enquiry and examination, that company is adjudged to have been involved in the use of corruption to secure past or current projects with either the agency/government or other agencies who operate similar policies recognised by the debarring agency/government.
DEMOCRATIC ACCOUNTABILITY – the idea that people entrusted with political power have a duty of accountability to their electorate.
DISCLOSURE – this refers to the provision of information as required under law or in good faith, regarding activities of a private individual, public official, company or organisation. Information can include a political candidate’s assets, a company’s financial reports, an NGO’s donors or a whistleblower’s accusations.
EMBEZZLEMENT – when a person holding office in an institution, organisation or company dishonestly and illegally appropriates, uses or traffics the funds and goods they have been entrusted with for personal enrichment or other activities.
ENHANCED DUE DILIGENCE – this refers to refer to Know Your Customer money laundering measures that include validation and documentation by third parties and applies to situations where higher risk clients and politically exposed persons such as senior politicians, are concerned.
ETHICS – moral principles that govern the behaviour of people in government, companies and society, or the way they conduct activities.
EXTORTION – the act of utilising, either directly or indirectly, one’s access to a position of power or knowledge to demand unmerited cooperation or compensation as a result of coercive threats.
FACILITATION PAYMENTS – these are small bribes, also called facilitating, speed or grease payments. They’re made to secure or expedite the performance of a routine or necessary action to which the payer actually has legal or other entitlement.
FAKELAKI – this Greek term is close to the notion of ‘tip’ in meaning, but at the same time it may refer to specific tariffs demanded by government officials in order to bypass procedure. Fakelaki is also connected to a work-culture that perceives various official documents, such as a driver’s licence, as papers you need to buy with money. Fakelaki is illegal, but its continuing presence in Greek life remains a problem.
FAVOURITISM – this refers to the normal human inclination to prefer acquaintances, friends and family over strangers. When public (and private sector) officials demonstrate favouritism to unfairly distribute positions and resources, they are guilty of cronyism or nepotism, depending on their relationship with the person who benefits.
FIDUCIARY RISK – corruption is one type of fiduciary risk, which in the development aid context is the risk that aid funds are not used for the intended purposes, do not achieve value for money, and/or are not properly accounted for. Fiduciary risk is of particular concern when donors provide direct budget support, as partner governments’ public financial management systems are often relatively weak.
FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE (FATF) – an inter-governmental body, such as the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, whose purpose is to develop and promote national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. There are several FATF-style regional bodies that have anti-money laundering and combating and financing of terrorism as their objectives.
FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT (FIU) – an FIU is a central, national agency responsible for receiving (and, as permitted, requesting), analysing and disseminating to the competent authorities, disclosures of financial information: (i) concerning suspected proceeds of crime and potential financing of terrorism, or (ii) required by national legislation or regulation, in order to counter money laundering and terrorism financing.
FRAUD – the unlawful and intentional making of a misrepresentation which causes actual prejudice or which is potentially prejudicial to another. In more common language, the term ‘fraud’ usually includes activities such as illegally transferring company money to your own or a friend’s bank account, pretending to have qualifications you do not have, pretending to have rendered a service that you have not rendered. Synonyms: Swindle, deceit, double-dealing, cheat, and bluff.
GIFT GIVING – a cultural practice in many societies, by which people offer presents and favours in various circumstances according to local customs. Problems arise when gift giving to and by public officials contradicts the principles of impartiality, professionalism, and meritocracy. In exchange for a gift, the official is expected to show preferential treatment to the giver. In those cases, gift-giving can be regarded as bribery.
GOVERNANCE – a concept that goes beyond the traditional notion of government to focus on the relationships between leaders, public institutions and citizens, including the processes by which they make and implement decisions. The term can also be applied to companies and NGOs. Good governance is characterised as being participatory, accountable, transparent, efficient, responsive and inclusive, respecting the rule of law and minimising opportunities for corruption.
GRAFT – the verb refers to the obtaining of money dishonestly by exploiting one’s position of power, especially political power. Graft is understood as political corruption with an element of greediness. Graft as a noun refers to the rewards of corruption: the loot, booty, payoffs, or spoils.
GRAND CORRUPTION – the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society. It often goes unpunished. The kinds of transactions that attract grand corruption are usually large in scale – and therefore involve more money than bureaucratic or ‘petty’ corruption. See also CORRUPTION, PETTY CORRUPTION and POLITICAL CORRUPTION.
GREASE MONEY – these are simply bribes, seen from the angle of the briber and alluding to the ‘drop of oil given to a squeaky wheel’ of excessive bureaucracy to make the things move smoothly again. Synonyms: softener, sweetener, gift.
HOLISTIC APPROACH – to address corruption effectively, conventional wisdom holds that a ‘holistic approach’ is needed. Such an approach examines all institutions and practices within a given country that are relevant to maintaining honest government and private sector institutions. These include the executive, legislature and judiciary, businesses, the media, civil society organisations, etc.
ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS – this generally involves the cross-border transfer of money earned through illegal activities, and efforts to shelter wealth from a country’s tax authorities. The sources of the funds of these transfers come in three forms: corruption, such as bribery and theft by government officials; criminal activities, such as drug trading, human trafficking, illegal arms sales and more; and tax evasion and transfer mispricing. Also referred to as CAPITAL FLIGHT.
INCENTIVE – an inducement or stimulus (the carrot or the stick), that encourages someone to do something. Incentive theory provides a conceptual framework for analysing the role and potential of recruitment and promotion mechanisms, detection and penalties, and different wage systems in improving the efficiency of public agencies. It challenges, for instance, the simplistic view that pay increases will always reduce fraud in public administration. Note that an incentive might also be a bribe, persuading officials to return undue favours to the briber.
INTEGRITY – refers to adherence to a set of moral or ethical principles. An integrity system, therefore, is a political and administrative arrangement that encourages integrity. Embraced by individuals as well as institutions, it creates a barrier to corruption.
INTEGRITY PACT – an agreement intended to prevent corruption in public contracting. One of the parties represents a central, local or municipal government, a government’s subdivision or even a state-owned enterprise. The other party is usually a private company interested in obtaining the contract, or in charge of implementing it. In the processes related to the public project, such as bidding, contracting and implementing, both the administration and the company pledge not to bribe or take bribes, and agree to punishment should they break this pledge.
INTEREST PEDDLING – this occurs when a professional solicits benefits in exchange for using his influence to unfairly advance the interests of a particular person or party. Interest peddling is addressed through transparency and disclosure laws, which aim to expose suspect agreements.
KICKBACK – a bribe, the return of an undue favour or service rendered, an illegal secret payment made as a return for a favour. The word describes a bribe as seen from the angle of the bribed. For example, A gives B a favour and B gives A a kickback in return. The term is used to describe, in a seemingly innocent way, the returns of a corrupt or illegal transaction or the gains from rendering a special service. Synonyms: percentage, share, cut, commission, payoff, etc.
KLEPTOCRACY (from klepto – to steal, and – kratos – rule: rule by looter) – a political system dominated by those who steal from state coffers and practice extortion as their modus operandi. Among the more well-known former kleptocrats we can list Duvalier (‘Papa Doc’) of Haiti, Mobutu of Zaïre, Bokassa of the Central African Republic, and Suharto of Indonesia.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER (KYC) – describes a set of anti-money laundering measures normally mandated by law which are employed by banks and other financial services to document the true identity of a customer/client and his or her source of wealth to make sure it is legitimate. The KYC information is compiled and retained in a client profile that is periodically updated. Actual activity over the account is compared to the KYC profile to identify activity that raises suspicions of money laundering.
MONEY LAUNDERING – any act or attempted act to disguise the source of money or assets derived from criminal activity. Money laundering includes concealing the origins and the use of the illegal assets. It is often used to disguise the proceeds of corruption, and is widely practiced by drug traffickers, human traffickers, kleptocrats and white-collar criminals. Bank secrecy makes laundered money particularly hard to trace.
NEPOTISM (SEE CLIENTELISM, FAVOURITISM) – a form of favouritism that involves family relationships. It describes situations in which a person exploits his or her power and authority to procure jobs or other favours for relatives, regardless of their suitability for the job. Nepotism can take place at all levels of the state, from low-level bureaucratic offices to national ministries. Many unrestricted presidents have tried to secure their positions by nominating family members to key political, economic and military/security posts in the state apparatus.
MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE – the formal process of co-operation between two or more jurisdictions, for example on cross-border money laundering, asset recovery and tax evasion cases.
NEPOTISM – a form of favouritism based on acquaintances and familiar relationships whereby someone in an official position exploits his or her power and authority to provide a job or favour to a family member or friend, even though he or she may not be qualified or deserving. Also see CLIENTELISM.
NOMINEE (DIRECTOR / OWNER / SHAREHOLDER, ETC) – this person acts as the legal manager, owner or shareholder of limited companies or assets, on behalf of the real manager, owner or shareholder of these entities. These nominees obscure the reality of who is really operating or benefiting from the company and are often used when the beneficial owners do not wish to disclose their identity or role in the company.
Professional nominees are paid a fee for their services but otherwise have no interest in the transactions. Nominees could also be family members or friends. Often, nominees pre-sign documentation, such as letters of resignation, which the beneficial owner can choose to effect at any time. See BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP SECRECY.
OFFSHORE FINANCIAL CENTRE – provides tax and regulatory privileges, generally to companies, trusts and bank account holders on condition that they do not conduct active business within that jurisdiction. These financial services can include minimum government interference and very low or zero tax rates.
OVERSIGHT – the process of independently monitoring and investigating, internally or externally, the operations and activities of a government agency, company or civil society organisation to ensure accountability and efficient use of resources.
PATRONAGE (see CLIENTELISM) – refers to the support or sponsorship of a patron (wealthy or influential guardian). Patronage is commonly used to make appointments to government jobs, promotions, contracts for work, etc. However, most patrons are motivated by the desire to gain power, wealth and status through their behaviour. Patronage transgresses the boundaries of legitimate political influence, and violates the principles of merit and competition.
PETTY CORRUPTION (see BUREAUCRATIC CORRUPTION) – also called administrative or bureaucratic corruption, petty corruption is the everyday type that takes place where bureaucrats meet the public directly. Petty corruption is also described as ‘survival’ corruption: a form of corruption which is pursued by junior or mid-level agents who may be grossly underpaid and who depend on relatively small but illegal rents to feed and house their families and pay for their children’s education.
Although petty corruption usually involves much smaller sums than those that change hands in acts of grand or political corruption, the amounts are not petty for the individuals adversely affected. Petty corruption disproportionately hurts the poorest members of society, who may experience requests for bribes regularly in their encounters with public administration and services like hospitals, schools, local licensing authorities, police, taxing authorities and so on.
POLITICAL CORRUPTION – the manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth. It could refer to grand or high-level corruption, or corruption within the political and electoral processes. In both cases, political corruption not only leads to the misallocation of resources, but it also perverts the manner in which decisions are made. See CORRUPTION, GRAND CORRUPTION, and PETTY CORRUPTION.
POLITICAL WILL – a commitment by political leaders to address the challenges facing society or to fulfil a political pledge, such as fighting corruption or increasing political participation, by pursuing the appropriate policy responses, including wide-spread reforms.
POLITICALLY EXPOSED PERSONS – individuals who are or have been entrusted with prominent public functions in a foreign country, for example heads of state or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of state owned corporations, or important political party officials. The term often includes their relatives and close associates.
Banks and other financial institutions are supposed to treat these clients as high-risk, applying enhanced due diligence at both the start of the relationship and on an ongoing basis, including at the end of a relationship to ensure that the money in their bank account is not the proceeds of crime or corruption.
PRIVATE SECTOR – any company, household and institution that is not controlled by the public sector and which is run for private profit. Private sector corruption is characterised by groups from this sector influencing decisions and actions that lead to abuses of entrusted power.
PROCUREMENT – a multi-step process of established procedures to acquire goods and services by any individual, company or organisation, from the initial needs assessment to the contract’s award and service delivery.
PROTECTED DISCLOSURE (see WHISTLEBLOWER) – a statement or report about serious wrongdoing, like corrupt conduct, maladministration or a substantial waste of public money. It is an admission or revelation that – when fulfilling certain requirements – entitles the person who made the disclosure to support and protection from reprisals, victimisation or even prosecution. Protected disclosures are made internally in the organisation, or to an ombudsman or someone with the power to prevent retaliation against the discloser.
PUBLIC SECTOR – the government and its decentralised units, including the police, military, public roads and transit authorities, primary schools and healthcare system, that use public funds and provide services based on the motivation to improve citizens’ lives rather than to make a profit.
RULE OF LAW – the legal and political systems, structures and practices that condition a government’s actions to protect citizens’ rights and liberties, maintain law and order, and encourage the effective functioning of the country.
RENT-SEEKING – a term from economics where actors attempt to derive economic rents by manipulating the social and political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by adding value. Not all rent-seeking behaviour can be equated with corruption. However, rent-seeking may involve corruption where officials solicit or extract bribes for applying their discretionary authority for awarding legitimate or illegitimate benefits to clients.
SECRECY JURISDICTIONS – territories, including cities, states/provinces and countries that encourage the relocation of otherwise foreign economic and financial transactions through strong privacy protection rules. These jurisdictions ensure that the identity of those relocating their money through them cannot be disclosed. This often undermines legislation and regulation of another jurisdiction. Many secrecy jurisdictions are also tax havens.
SHELL COMPANY – a limited liability entity having no physical presence in their jurisdiction, no employees and no commercial activity. It is usually formed in a tax haven or secrecy jurisdiction and its main or sole purpose is to insulate the real beneficial owner from taxes, disclosure or both. Shell companies are also referred to as international business companies, personal investment companies, front companies, or mailbox/letterbox companies.
SOLICITATION – the act of a person asking, ordering or enticing someone else to commit bribery or another crime.
SPOILATION – in legal terms, spoilation is the intentional destruction or alteration of a document required for evidence; more broadly it refers to the destruction or plunder of something valuable. Spoilation occurs when high-ranking officials loot the wealth of their states (see KLEPTOCRACY). The spoils are the benefits reaped, the booty, rewards, profits etc. from corrupt acts.
SPORADIC CORRUPTION – the opposite of SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION. Sporadic corruption occurs irregularly and therefore it does not threaten the mechanisms of control nor the economy as such. It is not crippling, but it can seriously undermine morale and sap the economy of resources.
STATE CAPTURE – the phenomenon in which outside interests (often the private sector, Mafia networks, etc.) are able to bend state laws, policies and regulations to their (mainly financial) benefit through corrupt transactions with public officers and politicians. The notion of state capture deviates from traditional concepts of corruption, in which a bureaucrat might extort bribes from powerless individuals or companies or politicians themselves steal state assets (see KLEPTOCRACY). State capture is recognised as a most destructive and intractable corruption problem, above all in transition economies with incomplete or distorted processes of democratic consolidation and insecure property rights.
SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION – as opposed to exploiting occasional opportunities, endemic or systemic corruption occurs when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system. Systemic corruption is not a special category of corrupt practice, but rather a situation in which the major institutions and processes of the state are routinely dominated and used by corrupt individuals and groups, and in which most people have no alternatives to dealing with corrupt officials.
TAX EVASION / AVOIDANCE – the illegal non-payment or under-payment of taxes, usually by deliberately making a false declaration or no declaration to tax authorities. It could involve the declaration of less income, profits or gains than the amounts actually earned, or the overstatement of deductions. It entails criminal or civil legal penalties.
Tax avoidance is the legal practice of seeking to minimise a tax bill by taking advantage of a loophole or exception to the rules, or adopting an unintended interpretation of the tax code. It usually refers to the practice of seeking to avoid paying tax by adhering to the letter of the law but opposed to the spirit of the law. Proving intention is difficult; therefore the dividing line between avoidance and evasion is often unclear.
TAX HAVENS (see SECRECY JURISDICTIONS) – these are legislative, judicial, fiscal and regulatory spaces provided by jurisdictions that encourage the relocation of economic transactions to that domain. Low or minimal tax rates to non-residents might apply and they may or may not host a range of financial service providers. These jurisdictions are defined by the tax benefits they offer and, in the case of corrupt individuals wanting to hide their funds, the secrecy that ensures that those making use of its regulation.
TRADING OF INFLUENCE – refers to the exchange of undue advantages between a public official and a member of the public. For example, a public official may promise to use his or her real or supposed influence to the benefit of another person in exchange for money or other favours.
TRANSPARENCY – the quality of being clear, honest and open in the disclosure of information, rules, plans, processes and actions. As a principle, transparency implies that civil servants, managers and trustees have a duty to act visibly, predictably and understandably. Sufficient information must be available so that other agencies and the general public can assess whether the relevant procedures are followed, consonant with the given mandate.
Transparency is therefore considered an essential element of accountable governance, leading to improved resource allocation, enhanced efficiency, and better prospects for economic growth in general.
WHISTLEBLOWING (see PROTECTED DISCLOSURE) – refers to making a disclosure in the public interest by an employee, director or external person, in an attempt to reveal neglect or abuses within the activities of an organisation, government body or company (or one of its business partners) that threaten public interest, its integrity and reputation.
These individuals often require protection from those they expose. Whistleblower protection refers to the measures (administrative or legislative) taken to shield the informer from physical, social and economic retaliation. Successful law enforcement and anti-corruption strategies are largely dependent upon the willingness of individuals to provide information and/or to give evidence.
The term in English is largely positive although many languages lack a similar concept with the same connotation.