Whistleblowers in private sector better protected under NACP

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic credit: giacc.jpm.gov.my

THE Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is expected to be strengthened under the five-year National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) launched in 2019 to empower messengers to act more freely without fear of intimidation by superiors, especially for private sectors.

National centre for governance, integrity and anti-corruption (GIACC) deputy DG Farah Adura Hamidi (picture) said the plan will address mismatch of procedures between the enforcement agencies and company policy — which is typically guided by its independent procedures.

Farah Adura said this would open whistleblowers to intimidation after disclosing information, hence putting the messenger in a difficult situation. It will also halt the progress of promoting the whistleblowing agenda among the public.

“Whistleblowers can disclose information to designated agencies and get protection such as from the police and customs department, among others.

“But the issue arises when there seems to be a disconnection between the company’s internal reporting mechanism and the report later provided by the enforcement agencies.

“So GIACC thinks there is still room for improvement,” she said in her keynote address at the Whistleblowers’ Vital Role to Stem Corruption in the Workplace virtual seminar yesterday.

The half-day conference was organised by the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

Farah Adura also stressed that it is important to ensure the employees’ minds are at ease when revealing information that could save not only lives but also a company’s assets.

“We want employers and employees to know that they are free to disclose such information without fear of favour,” she said, adding that the amendment to the provision is now being deliberated by a technical committee at GIACC, who reports to the Prime Minister’s Department.

In his presentation, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer Farizal Muzaffar Hafiz Abdul Wahab revealed that there was an encouraging trend of whistleblowing.

More messengers have been willing to take the risk to inform MACC and relevant agencies within the last decade since the law was enacted.

To date, he said MACC has received a total of 401 applications from whistleblowers for various issues with 362 of them being granted protection while 39 personnel had their requests revoked as they have failed to meet the requirement stipulated in the act.

Last year, MACC registered 62 individuals for protection under the law, five times more than only 14 in 2011.

“What is interesting is of the 401 cases, 26% came from the private sector which I think is a good number, while 250 cases or 62% was from the public sector and others from the civilians,” said Farizal Muzaffar, who is now seconded to Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd as their integrity and discipline department senior manager.

He added that it is very challenging to protect whistleblowers within the private sector due to companies’ policies.

“It is often that companies use their own whistleblowing policy and normally the protection would only cover the confidentiality of information but what about if something happens to the whistleblowers?

“This includes the factors of any detrimental action taken to the whistleblower. That is the real situation that we need to take into account,” said Farizal Muzaffar who has handled more than 200 whistleblower cases to date.

He also addressed the misconceptions towards the relevant government enforcement agencies, which he described as a long-time major hurdle.

Besides the distrust among the public about the reliability of the protection provided under the act, there were also cases where whistleblowers expected protections that are outside the agencies’ limitations, like security personnel and life assurance.

This, he said, is not covered as a whole in the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, unless the person is entitled under the Witness Protection Programme which requires the person to testify in the court.

The enactment of the act made Malaysia among the 140 nations that has a whistleblowing act.

It is also in accordance with Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.