But in order to bring about such change, we need to tackle the concerns that still remain a challenge for firms in terms of whistleblowing. Cases continue to appear where those who have spoken up have suffered, as exemplified by Robert Francis’ “Freedom to speak up” review into the NHS.
The terms “whistleblowing” and “speak up” are often used interchangeably. In a corporate context, it all comes down to encouraging employees to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation. In the end, an open culture where employees have the confidence to speak up will allow a business to operate with high ethical standards and avoid integrity risks.
And with developments in the internet and social networking sites, it is now easier than ever for employees to make their concerns public. Most bosses may have been, or will be, the victim of a fraud or theft at the hands of their own employees; but a mechanism for employees to speak up could help prevent such misconduct. Furthermore, the value of whistleblowing is recognised, with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reporting that it is one of the most effective ways to uncover fraud.
Recent whistleblowing cases have shown that this is something bosses should try implementing right now if they aren’t already. Whistleblowing functions act as a safety valve in the best corporate governance frameworks, which are comparable to an adequate procedures framework as envisaged by the UK Bribery Act.
To facilitate this, it is essential that whistleblowing policies and procedures are communicated to all staff, and that questions about them are asked in staff engagement surveys to help understand and dispel any concerns that staff may have. In addition, firms need a clear understanding of what to do when a whistleblowing call comes through.
All in all, the practice of whistleblowing has the potential to bring about a great change in businesses – both in terms of governance and culture – as long as someone doesn’t have their finger over the air intake.
By Shané Schutte
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