WHISTLEBLOWERS AS FIRST RESPONDERS: HOW TO STEM THE TIDE OF FRAUD AND CORRUPTION AROUND CV19.
How do we remove legal, technological and cultural barriers that prevent whistleblowers from connecting with oversight channels quickly?
An except from: Global Legal Hackathon presented by Constantine Cannon
The challenge posed by Constantine Canon aimes to address COVID-related fraud in the context of the furlough scheme and business loans in the UK.
Fraud is difficult to prove, and many are scared to speak out and do not know where to report fraudulent practices. This culture must change and whistleblowers can be the catalyst, taking into consideration that there is an urgent need for a short-term solution. The overarching view of a potential solution as outlined in the report is through the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) pending the establishment of the Office of the Whistleblower as per a bill submitted to Parliament.
What incentive is there for reporting a fraud where the worker has such little protection? The problems in the current system have already been recognised by the APPG report in July 2019. There needs to be a fundamental overhaul.
The preferred long-term solution:
The Office of the Whistleblower(OPW) A bill introduced by Baroness Kramer on 28th January 2020 in the UK Parliament seeks to establish an Independent Office of the Whistleblower. It is envisaged that in addition to the stated aims an additional duty on this office would be to review existing legislation and propose legislation to replace PIDA. The OFW will be responsible for ensuring that allegations of wrongdoing are a priority that must be properly investigated and swift and effective that action is taken to remedy. The OFW will be able to identify trends and clusters directing investigations and alerting government as part of a strategic preventative measure against future global catastrophe. We support this bill as the longer-term solution.
The Office of the Whistleblower Bill, introduced on January 28th by Baroness Susan Kramer, incorporates the recommendations and guidance offered inthe2019 report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing, of which Baroness Kramer is co-chair. The APPG on Whistleblowing concluded that the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998(PIDA) “has not lived up to expectations and has failed to provide adequate and comprehensive protection to whistleblowers or the public.” The report went further, stating: “Every Whistleblower headline exposes another failure ofexisting legislation and as we look to the future, we must ensure that the UK is a secure and ethical place to do business and to work.”
The report offered a 10 Point Plan to address and correct the failures of PIDA. Baroness Kramer’s bill incorporates the report’s recommendations.The Bill would give the Office of the Whistleblower the powers to: give direction to and monitor activities of relevant bodies; act as a point of contact for whistleblowers; form and maintain a panel of legal firms and advisory bodies to advise and support whistleblowers; maintain a fund to support whistleblowers; provide financial redress to whistleblowers whose disclosure is deemed by the Office to have harmed their employment, reputation or career; and to publish an annual report to Parliament regarding its activities.If enacted, the Secretary of State will have one year from the Bill’s passage to establish the Office of the Whistleblower.
The most recent mention was in February 2020, by Baroness Brinton:Will the Government commit to anoffice of the whistleblowerto, through legislation, give more protection to patients, whether they are in the NHS or the independent sector? Spire Healthcare has said that it has put more measures in place to encourage staff and patients to speak out since the Paterson case, but even the Statement refers to there still being problems in Spire Healthcare. This just demonstrates that this is not working. Paterson’s victims are very clear: we need a system within the NHS that protects patients and staff. That is equally true of the independent sector.But this will take time and political appetite.
Click here for the full Constantine Cannon Global Legal Hackathon Challenge document.