The journey of whistle-blowers in South Africa has increasingly come under the spotlight, including the sometimes devastating consequences that have followed a disclosure. In a report titled Daring to Act, released to coincide with today’s International Anti-Corruption Day, Corruption Watch unveils the findings of an online perceptions survey towards whistle-blowing in South Africa.
The study explores the public’s trust in institutions, awareness of existing whistle-blowing and reporting channels, and views on suggested improvements to systems that would promote a safe environment for whistle-blowing.
“This perceptions survey, while not a representative sample, provides important insights into the attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions of whistle-blowing in South Africa,” said Kavisha Pillay, head of stakeholder relations and campaigns at Corruption Watch.
According to the survey, most respondents understand the nature and purpose of whistle-blowing as being able to disclose information about abuse of power or misconduct to various public and institutional bodies. In addition, participants believe that whistle-blowing is important in addressing wrongdoing and curbing corruption and crime in the country.
Asked if they knew where to report their experiences of corruption, crime or misconduct, the majority (58%) said that they did, confirming their awareness of the key whistle-blower reporting channels: the South African Police Service (71%), followed by Corruption Watch (63%), and Chapter 9 institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission (48%) and the Public Protector (48%). While participants are aware of the various channels to report wrongdoing, corruption, crime or misconduct, most are only partially aware or not at all aware of the laws that protect whistle-blowers in South Africa.
Regarding the institutions dealing with their corruption reports, the majority expressed greater trust in civil society organisations, followed by Chapter 9 institutions and the media.
Finally, participants noted that to improve whistle-blowing in South Africa, additional resources should be provided to law enforcement agencies to ensure whistle-blower complaints are investigated, there should be legislative reform, and an agency dedicated to supporting whistle-blowers should be established.
For its part, Corruption Watch believes that the findings of this study could greatly improve existing systems, policies and programmes to reduce corruption in society. “The data emanating from this survey, along with the whistle-blower complaints received by Corruption Watch and other organisations, as well as the experiences that have been reported on in the public domain, clearly indicate that more needs to be done to improve the environment so that it is safe and conducive for whistle-blowing, if we hope to build a corruption-free society,” said Pillay.
Some of the organisation’s recommendations include a review and amendment of the Protected Disclosures Act with the expansion of the definition of a whistle-blower to include anyone who has information about wrongdoing or misconduct. Corruption Watch also supports the proposed establishment of an agency to provide whistle-blowers with legal, financial and mental health support, in alignment with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy.
Furthermore, the organisation believes that criminal sanctions should be brought against those found guilty of intimidation and harassment of whistle-blowers, including penalties against law enforcement agencies found derelict in their duties to protect whistle-blowers. The broader topic of compensation for whistle-blowers needs to be considered, and all sectors of society are encouraged to take responsibility for public awareness and education around whistle-blowing.
It is heartening that, despite the difficulties in exposing corruption and the personal dangers experienced by whistle-blowers, most participants in this study were positively disposed towards whistle-blowing as a means of securing justice and righting the wrongs, with an overwhelming 76% stating that they would report corruption or misconduct in the future, should they experience it.
To report corruption visit www.corruptionwatch.org.za or WhatsApp 082 579 5220.
To report police corruption or misconduct, visit www.veza.org.za.
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