The importance of whistleblower protection
Encouraging employees to report wrongdoing ("or blow the whistle"), and protecting them when they do, is an important part of corruption prevention in both the public and private sectors. Employees are usually the first to recognise wrongdoing in the workplace, so empowering them to speak up without fear of reprisal can help authorities both detect and deter violations.
In the public sector, protecting whistleblowers can make it easier to detect passive bribery, the misuse of public funds, waste, fraud and other forms of corruption. In the private sector, it helps authorities identify cases of active bribery and other corrupt acts committed by companies, and also helps businesses prevent and detect bribery in commercial transactions. Whistleblower protection is thus essential to safeguarding the public interest and to promoting a culture of public accountability and integrity.
The OECD has collected and analysed information on approaches to and trends in whistleblower protection in OECD countries, and developed a "toolkit" for policy makers (see Resources below).
In most jurisdictions, there is an obligation for public officials to report corruption and other wrongdoing. However, employees who do so may be subject to intimidation, harassment, dismissal and even violence from their colleagues or supervisors; individual careers as well as the organisational culture may suffer. Therefore, the encouragement of whistleblowing must be accompanied by legal protection and clear guidance on reporting procedures.
The majority of OECD countries have introduced legal protection for whistleblowers, either through a dedicated law or through provisions in other laws. International anti-corruption instruments have also recognised the importance of whistleblower protection laws.