Governance Institute calls for stand-alone whistleblowing act
The Governance Institute of Australia has called for a stand-alone act for reporting misconduct, with the whistle-blower provisions in the Corporations Act requiring individuals to have a detailed understanding of tax, industrial relations and corruption.
The Governance Institute said research conducted across 702 public sector, business and not-for-profit organisations from Australia and New Zealand supports the need for policy changes in this area.
The research found that 23 per cent of organisations and up to 36 per cent of not-for-profit organisations reported having no system for recording and tracking wrongdoing concerns.
It also found that 23 per cent and up to 34 per cent of not-for-profit organisations did not have any strategy, program or process for delivering support and protection to staff who raise concerns.
The research also indicated a lot of businesses have failed to consider the detrimental impacts that staff might experience from raising wrongdoing concerns, with 38 per cent of businesses failing to think about this either at all or until problems arise.
Only 46 per cent of organisations provide access to a management-designated support person inside the organisation as part of their response to staff who raise wrongdoing concerns, and only 16 per cent have any mechanisms for ensuring adequate compensation or restitution if staff experience reprisals or other detrimental impacts.
Governance Institute chief executive Steven Burrell said the results reinforce the problem that the whistle-blower provisions in the Corporations Act are very narrowly focused.
The provisions he said also require whistle-blowers to have a detailed understanding of whether the misconduct they are reporting is covered by corporate law when it could relate to competition, tax, workplace health and safety, bribery or corruption or industrial relations, all of which are covered by different legislation and regulators.
“A stand-alone Act that covers disclosure of any sort of misconduct — not just financial misconduct — and that provides protection regardless of which regulator the whistle-blower discloses to is what we need,” said Mr Burrell.
“Australia should follow the lead of the US and UK, where there are general provisions for allegations of misconduct made in good faith and which do not attract retribution. This is a much better option than one which mandates the same provision in multiple pieces of legislation.”