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Whistleblowing - Give your employees a voice

Forensic Focus - December 2009

Your employees are the eyes and ears of your organisation - they see and hear everything including what inappropriate behaviour is going on and who is involved. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ 2008 Report to the Nation on occupational fraud, frauds are more likely to be detected by ‘tips’ than any other means including audits or internal controls. Of the cases in which a tip was received during the study, 31% were received via a hotline-type system.

Despite the statistics unfortunately many New Zealand organisations do not provide their employees with a voice, the chance for them to express their concerns and submit complaints in confidence. However, implementing a Whistleblower hotline could stop inappropriate behaviour from damaging your organisation’s reputation, costing you money and potentially bringing down your organisation.

Many organisations run in-house employee Whistleblower systems such as delegating one person to deal with any employee concerns and complaints. However there are specialist providers who can offer you with an external Whistleblower hotline which is often a more effective option.

Either way in order to run a successful employee Whistleblower hotline several components are required:

Support from the top

Endorsement and support of your employee Whistleblower hotline is required from senior management. Employees should be encouraged to speak up about anything they are concerned about or any inappropriate behaviour they are aware of. Employees need to feel that their concerns will be taken seriously and have confidence that voicing their concerns will not harm their career.

Independent and confidential 

Employees need to be able to report their concerns to an independent body on a confidential basis without fear of reprisal.

Often management are at the centre of an employee’s concern about inappropriate behaviour, this can intensify the situation for the employee. So it’s important your employee Whistleblower hotline and the process involved is independent of management. For this reason many organisations outsource their hotline service to an external provider.

Many organisations have taken matters a step further to increase employees’ confidence in the system and provide anonymous Whistleblower services.

Easy to access 

Given the situation your employee is in and the dilemma they face about reporting their concerns it is essential to make the reporting process as easy as possible. Employees should have access to a hotline that is easy to access (telephone, email and post) and can be accessed at a time convenient to them (ideally a 24 hour service). It will also be important to offer multi-languages if you are operating overseas or employ staff with limited English speaking skills.

Protection

For current employees who ‘blow the whistle’ in an unsecure environment the consequences to their working conditions can be disastrous. They may end up having to deal with being ostracised, bullied or treated so poorly that they leave the organisation. As well as providing an independent and confidential Whistleblower hotline it is also imperative that organisation’s have policies to protect those who come forward to voice their concerns.

In 1 January 2001 the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 came into force in New Zealand. The Act provides protection for employees who in accordance with the Act make disclosures of information about serious wrongdoing. However, it is recommended that all organisations establish their own internal procedures and policies to deal with reporting concerns and complaints.

Please contact Lisa Tai or Rodger Murphy if you would like to discuss Whistleblower hotlines or to find out about Deloitte’s 24 hour, multi-language, anonymous employee Whistleblower hotline, Tip-offs AnonymousTM.

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