A second chance to get it right

In the House of Representatives today, Members of Parliament will have an opportunity to prove they are serious about tackling corruption.

The main item for debate is the Whistleblower Protection Bill, 2022, which in its previous incarnation failed to get Opposition support. On that occasion in May 2019 when the legislation was before the Lower House, requiring a three-fifths majority for passage, while all 22 Government MPs voted in favour, the 16 Opposition representatives voted against the bill.

The sticking point was sections of the bill that dealt with anonymity.

In the updated version of the bill, which was recently laid in Parliament by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, the special majority requirement remains in place, so a degree of bipartisanship will be needed to get this legislation beyond the usual hurdles.

Weeding out corruption is the one thing that our legislators, regardless of where they stand politically, should be able to agree on. It should not be that difficult for them to set their differences aside and work toward achieving consensus on this crucial issue.

Government, which is yet to deliver fully on its promise to battle white-collar criminal activity, views this bill as a key element in the arsenal of anti-corruption measures that it has been trying to develop for the better part of seven years. However, they have little to show as to date the long-promised procurement regime is not fully in place and there has not been noteworthy progress with other pieces of legislation, such as campaign financing.

The Opposition, on the other hand, cannot afford to be seen as opposing for opposing’s sake on this measure.

All sides should be unanimous on the importance of protecting whistleblowers from job loss, discrimination or intimidation, threats to life, victimization, or any other consequences they could suffer for revealing information about misconduct and corrupt practices.

Anyone who in good faith discloses serious wrongdoing or other information of public interest should be protected and their revelations thoroughly investigated.

In countries where such laws to protect whistleblowers exist, their disclosures have helped save millions in public funds and have safeguarded the public good

Whistleblowers have not only exposed mismanagement, corruption, illegality, and wasteful spending, but have prevented violations of civil, human, and constitutional rights

Transparency International, in its relentless battle against corruption, places immense importance on protecting whistleblowers from, noting that having such laws in place can “embolden people to report wrongdoing and increase the likelihood that wrongdoing is uncovered and penalized.”

Laws protecting whistleblowers have been around for decades and in many jurisdictions, there are now systems in place that fully recognize the role of whistleblowers in reducing corruption and improving integrity.

This country is far behind many other countries in introducing whistleblower protection laws. The United States has had laws have been in place since 1978, the United Kingdom has protected workplace whistleblowing since 1999 and Australia and South Africa have had whistleblower laws since 1993 and 2000, respectively.

The hope is that our legislators will get it right this time around and produce the robust and comprehensive whistleblower law that this country needs.

Courtesy The Trinidad Guardian

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