Public Integrity Handbook and Covid-19 response — updates from OECD

    Before the introduction of Public Integrity Handbook (or PIH later) we need to outline its context: why it is is important specifically now and what it can change in our society.

 To do so, it is the right choice to turn to the global pandemic challenges that most employees and employers experienced themselves.

      The hot and urgent topic of this spring is whistleblowing: a huge number of reports on poor working conditions, money laundering in public health areas and procurements came up. But most of the complaints on critical issues weren't exposed and never will since there is no public culture of acceptance of whistleblowing yet. Here are conclusions from OECD experts about whistleblowing perspectives:

We need whistleblowers; when they are silent, it poses a risk to public health and safety.

     Whistleblowing is never about one thing, and that's why it is never only personal. Every time your employee  (or "just" a bystander in some cases) does not report misconduct, it leads to the practice of ignorant corporate culture and financial losses. Specifically, for the pandemic time we lose medical resources and damage social safety.

Once you are a whistleblower, you are always a whistleblower.

     The fact that we should not forget — whistleblowers do have a certain reputation and status which remains stable after changing a job. The way we treat whistleblowers after their reports (retaliation or approval and assistance) can both increase and decrease the number of reports. We are still in high demand for rebuilding a social attitude to whistleblowing: whistleblowers are nor traitors and neither snitches.

We need a public form of expression - there is no time to wait for the truth.

   Bureaucracy consumes the most precious resource we have to fight corruption and misconduct - time. It is good to have standard procedures and laws established, though, we need a different attitude to social media reports. Sometimes public disclosure is an efficient and appropriate form of whistleblowing which should be chosen to immediately react to the situation of personal and public health risks.

Having said this, we can outline the areas for improvement (concluded from the analysis by OECD experts):

  • Enforcement of reprisal protection
  • Development of organisational culture
  • Effective investigation of whistleblower cases 
  • Dealing with ignorance and reluctance

Public Integrity Handbook

   A whole set of practical advice to implement, where each date is a good date to start - that's precisely the definition of PIH. It's a fresh update from OECD on previous recommendations, and there is a lot to study from inside. What is it about?

PIH represents practical tools for companies and individuals to help in particular spheres: enforcement, capacity, standards, responsibility and more. We will see how effective it is with time, now we know for sure that:

  • Building integrity is a long-term task.
  • Corruption is not a top target of all integrity tools - first of all, we care about people.
  • Enforcement is important, but we need culture as a whole. Without integrity culture as a good stable habit, any tool is destined to fail.
  • The toolkit sets a direction - it's the task of civil society to support and enforce the initiatives.

We are waiting for similar useful updates and materials from other organisations - the world of compliance has been slowly changing for the better, and we need to follow up. Revision of old practices is crucial to set and achieve our goal - safe, simple and rewarding whistleblowing.


 

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