Code of Good Practice

Posted in Whistleblowing

Effective whistleblowing mechanisms are a key part of good governance.  A healthy open culture is one where people are encouraged to speak out, confident that they can do so without adverse repercussions, confident that they will be listened to, and confident that appropriate action will be taken.

This is to the benefit of organisations, individuals and society as a whole.  It is now some 14 years since the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) was established and some 15 years since the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA) was passed, but we are still seeing so much harm, in all parts of our society, where effective whistleblowing could have resulted in early detection and prevention.  Often individuals did speak out but were not listened to and no actions were taken. Many of the whistleblowers suffered serious reprisals for having had the courage to speak out. Often they did not raise their concerns correctly and so did not benefit from the protection of the PDA.

It is against this background that ODAC has decided to  draft a Code of Good Practice (Whistleblowing) after consultations with various oorganisations and individuals. 

We have had consultations over the past few years about taking whistleblowing policy and law to the next level.  With changes to the legislation in sight, we can say that many of the current deficits in law will be addressed, but the implementation challenges will remain.

The thinking at ODAC is that we need a Code which sets out the key principles and practices of effective whistleblowing. We need a Code to strengthen the protections offered whistleblowers and for employers to be ensured of responsible whistleblowing. 

Download a pdf copy of the Code here.

Alide Dasnois Litigation

Posted in Whistleblowing

The Campaign

ODAC is leading a campaign to fund litigation support Alide Dasnois, the former editor of the Cape Times, for unfair dismissal. Alide Dasnois has now been dismissed as an employee of Independent Newspapers.

Independent Newspapers have issued a formal response to some of ODAC's statements on the case, which can be read below.

Our Statement

“We believe that the dismissal of Dasnois, who has worked on five of the Group's publications, on three of them as editor, and who was awarded the 2014 Nat Nakasa award for courage and  integrity in journalism, has created a chilling effect among the editors and journalists in the Independent Group.” said Alison Tilley, of ODAC.

In December 2013 Alide Dasnois was removed from her post as editor of the Cape Times and  offered a position  as the editor of a different publication within the Group. 

The Group then took steps to terminate her employment relationship with it by instituting a disciplinary hearing which took place in May.  She was charged with multiple charges, the most  significant being the decision to run a story about a Public Protector report on Sekunjalo – the new owners of the Independent Group and therefore the Cape Times - as a front page lead on the morning after  the death of Nelson Mandela. The Public Protector found, among other things, that Sekunjalo had benefited from an R800 million a year government tender which was improperly awarded. She has now formally been dismissed.

Independent Newspapers says on its web site that it publishes more than 30 daily and weekly newspapers in the country’s three major metropolitan areas, claiming aggregate weekly sales of 2.8 million  copies and  48% of the total advertising spend in the paid newspaper market (more than twice that of any other newspaper group). 

In deciding to dismiss Dasnois the chairperson of the hearing, Independent Newspapers director Takudzwa Hove, made this finding: 

“lt has also been demonstrated that the decision not to lead editorially with Mandela's death was most probably influenced by personal feelings against her new employer hence the publication of the Public Protector's report as a lead story on the day. lt's been demonstrated in testimony that there was a deliberate attempt to tarnish Sekunjalo and your actions plus those of other senior members and reporters ...brings to question your integrity and that that of some senior members of the Cape Times newsroom. This demonstrates lack of professional judgement and integrity in that you failed put aside personal feelings ahead of the interests of the readers of the newspapers by not running the most newsworthy story of the day.”

 The Cape Times published a special four page "Mandela" edition on that morning, containing news about his death, photographs and tributes. The front page of this Mandela edition was described by Time Magazine to be one of the best "Mandela" front pages in the world.

Dasnois's litigation has initially been supported by attorneys and counsel acting pro bono.  Some funding will be provided by the Media Legal Defence Initiative, but more will be needed to successfully litigate the matter. 

 "We believe this case is important in establishing the rights of editors and journalists to publish what is in the public's right to know. It will be an important test case around the balancing of the rights of media owners, and media workers. If we can find 100 people who can each give the Dasnois fund R1000, we can seek matching and other funds from donors, and have good prospects of running a solid case." said Tilley. “ODAC, a registered non profit, will facilitate collecting funds for the litigation. ODAC works in the areas of access to information and whistle-blowing, and believes that the right to freedom of expression in the workplace is key to transparency and accountability, in government and in business. ”

Dasnois has instituted legal proceedings and will be referring a case to the Labour Court regarding what she will allege is Independent Newspapers' discriminatory conduct and violation of her right to free speech and editorial independence. She has been advised by her lawyers not to talk directly to the media at this stage of proceedings.

What You Can Do

To make a donation to support  Dasnois' litigation, you can make a deposit into the following bank account. We can also provide invoices for donations:

Open Democracy Advice Centre

Reference Dasnois

Standard Bank, branch code: 020 909

Acc no: 274 464 160

For more information call Alison Tilley from ODAC, 071 671 8654. We are a registered non-profit organisation.

The Background Documents

PWC Corruption report and whistleblowing

Posted in Whistleblowing

The latest PWC Global Economic Crime Survey for South Africa, released yesterday,  identifies a trend in the effectiveness of whistleblowers in reporting crime. Not surprisingly the trend is downwards – in 2007, 16% of crime was detected through  whistleblowing, and now that has dropped to 6% in 2013. The writers of the survey seem a bit puzzled about why this is, given that so many companies do actually have whistleblowing policies in place.

 We would suggest the answer lies in the legislative and other shortcomings in protecting whistleblowers South Africa.

 There are implementation gaps and deficiencies in the use and application of the existing laws which undermine the safety of whistleblowers. Those laws are themselves ineffective. This contributes to the lack of confidence in the ability of the law to protect people – ultimately contributing to the declining rates of whistleblowing in South Africa. Only 3 out of 10 South Africans believe that the law does effectively protect whistleblowers.

 There has been a steady decline in the number of people who describe themselves as blowing the whistle.

 In 2011, 18.4% of respondents said that they had blown the whistle. This is down from 25.3% in 2007. We believe these drops in numbers of people blowing the whistle can be directly related to the perception that the law does not effectively protect whistleblower.

 We need better protection for whistleblowers.

Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)

Posted in Whistleblowing

G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan – Implementation of whistleblower protection legislation by end 2012

ODAC  joins a group of organizations whose mission and commitment is sharing expertise and solidarity to enact and enforce the strongest possible rights for those who use freedom of speech to challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust.  This organization is called Whistleblowing International Network(WIN). 

WIN welcomes the commitment made at the Seoul G20 Summit where an Anti-Corruption Action Plan to combat corruption was drafted.   By proposing best practice legislation, the G20 is in a unique position to provide a benchmark in this field at a global level.

Point 7 of the plan deals with proposing best practice legislation for protecting whistle-blowers and hence the Whistle-blowing International Network has written a letter to the G20 to contribute to this discussion on how best to protect whistle-blowers. This builds on Transparency International’s Principle’s for Whistle-blowing Legislation.

Click here to view a letter sent to the co-chairs of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group

Newly formed Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) 

At a meeting held on the 23 June in London ODAC joined the Whistleblowing International Network as a representative for South Africa. The Network was established with noted participation from Public Concern at Work, Transparency International and other Whistleblowing Campaigners from Germany and Ireland.

The background to the formation of network was as a result of a conference held by Transparency International in Bangkok 2011. One of sectional discussions ‘Moving Whistleblowing to the Next Level’, participants felt there was not enough support given to whistleblowers and whistleblowing issues internationally. At the conclusion of the session, participants felt a need to establish an international network to support whistleblowing.  This led to a second meeting held in London on 23 June 2011 to discuss the formation of an international network. ODAC was represented by Lorraine Martin Programme Manager of the Protected Disclosures Unit (Whistleblowing)

On the agenda were talks about creating a forum for knowledge exchange, increasing public awareness and creating alliances to enhance the protection and support available for whistleblowers and the question of whether there is a need to develop a world-wide civil society network of organisations dealing with whistleblowing were tackled.

There were debates on the role of classic and new media in this area, on-going processes to enhance whistleblower legislation, as well as the impact of differences in world-wide legal and political systems for such legal frameworks.

It was decided that as whistleblowing plays a critical role in detecting and preventing corruption and other malpractice, there is a need for more effective whistleblowing and adequate protection of whistleblowers. Rather than being seen as champions of the public good, whistleblowers are often perceived as disloyal to their employers or even as traitors or snitches. Their disclosures are often not followed-up with and whistleblowers often face reprisal at their workplace against which they are not adequately protected.  The international network would assist by building on the draft principles developed by Transparency International on whistleblower protection. These principles shared by as many civil society experts and whistleblowing organisations around the world might increase the influence of civil society in international discussions about whistleblowing laws currently taking place at UN, ILO, G20 or regional organisations like EU, OAS and SADC.  Knowledge exchange is very important. 

Globaleaks is assisting the network with IT support and Public Concern at Work will provide administrative support.

The Bangkok Declaration: Restoring Trust – 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference

ODAC together with more than 1,200 people from around 135 countries, from the public, private and nonprofit sectors came together in Bangkok, Thailand, for the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) from 10 -13 November 2010, with a mission to restore trust through global action for transparency.

Full report: The Bangkok Declaration: Restoring Trust – 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference

Recommended draft principles for whistleblowing legislation

The principles take experience with existing whistleblowing legislation into account. They are meant to be guiding principles which should be adapted to individual countries’ specific contexts and existing legal frameworks. These principles are still under review and any contribution to their further development is welcome.Click on link below for the principals

Recommended draft principles for whistleblowing legislation Nov 2009 (42Kb)

These principles were developed by Transparency International with the support of experts and practitioners from around the world, namely: 

  • Canadians for Accountability
  • Members of the secretariat of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) and the Council’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (Canada)
  • Government Accountability Project (USA)
  • Integrity Line (Switzerland)
  • Representatives of the International Chamber of Commerce (Anti-Corruption Commission)
  • National Whistleblowers Center (US)
  • Open Democracy Advice Centre (South Africa)
  • Project on Government Oversight (US)
  • Public Concern at Work (UK)
  • Risk Communication Concepts (Germany)
  • Whistleblower Network (Germany)
  • TI chapters from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia,
    Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and
    Slovakia

Speak out network

Posted in Whistleblowing

ODAC Submission to Department of Labour on the Labour Relations Amendment Bill

LRA Amendment Bill Submission

The purpose of this submission is to highlight the impact of the proposed amendments on the protection and remedies afforded to whistleblowers (‘employees’) under the Protected Disclosures Act and to suggest some alternative draft amendments to the Bill. 

International Conference on Corruption: 1 – 2 February 2011

Democratic Republic of Congo, in the light of many states, signed and ratified the 8th United Nations Convention to Combat against Corruption adopted in Merida (Mexico), December 9, 2003.

Emma Levy of ODAC with some delegates attending conference

To fulfill its commitments to fight corruption, the Democratic Republic of Congo signed an agreement with the Republic of South Africa, dated 24 August 2004, a Framework Agreement of Cooperation, with particular emphasis on Promotion of Ethical Values and Cultural Heritage Declaration, following which a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding, on the Fight against Corruption was signed February 18, 2008 between the Governments of Congo and South Africa as well as Office of the United Nations against Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Full report  on the International Conference on Corruption held at the Democratic Republic of Congo by Emma Levy

 ’Speak Out for Service Delivery: The Protected Disclosures Act as a tool for organizational accountability’:

This pocket-sized whistleblowing manual, written and edited by Emma Levy, for ODAC’s Drivers of Change project provides a comprehensive guide to the Protected Disclosures Act and Companies Act.  It also contains advice and templates on whistleblowing policies.

Download (pdf 684Kb)