Dear Premier Dunderdale, It was deeply embarrassing to watch Justice Minister Felix Collins on May 16 trying to explain away your government’s five years of inaction on promised whistleblower legislation – by hiding behind excuses and claiming for example that the province is ‘constantly monitoring’ what is happening elsewhere. It does not seem plausible that your government could not find any other jurisdiction whose laws you could emulate.
The USA has been the pioneer in this area for more than 30 years and has literally dozens of whistleblower laws, at every level of government – including the spectacularly successful False Claims Act that returns billions of dollars annually to the public purse from cheating contractors. The UK has had a widely-admired system in place for 14 years, covering not just the public sector but virtually all employees: this has been studied and emulated by several other countries.
Every state in Australia has a whistleblower law, and a consortium of Australian universities has studied these extensively, producing a growing body of research that is identifying best practices with increasing precision.
New Zealand has legislation modeled on the UK’s. Ireland is in the process of introducing a whistleblower law, using a thorough, methodical process with expert guidance and extensive consultations. And ten European countries – including Romania – have committed themselves to a peer review process in which teams from other jurisdictions audit their whistleblower systems. I could go on…
Besides dozens of working whistleblower laws to examine, there are also numerous guidelines, standards and model laws written specifically to guide you in drafting your own law. Transparency International published the first draft of its Recommended Principles for Whistleblowing Legislation in 2009, and is refining this at a roundtable in Berlin this week. There are at least six international laws and conventions dealing with whistleblowing, published by the Council of Europe, the OECD the UN and other international bodies.
In short there is a wealth of knowledge, practical experience, research findings and documented guidance out there – if you will just look.
My organization also stands ready to assist. FAIR is the leading independent whistleblower organization in Canada focused on legislation. A registered charity founded in 1998 by Joanna Gualtieri, FAIR was largely responsible for putting whistleblowing on the map in Canada. We are pledged to assist any good faith effort to implement whistleblower legislation: and we will analyze and comment on draft legislation and report on implementation progress – just as we have done for the federal government.
Six years after the infamous audit scandal and five years after making its promise to protect whistleblowers, it seems to me that your government faces a simple choice: of hiding behind excuses until another massive scandal seals its fate at the ballot box – or showing leadership by taking steps to combat corruption effectively and protect the public purse.
That’s what Newfoundlanders seem to want, and surely they deserve nothing less.
FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform)
FAIR is a registered Canadian charity, founded in 1998, whose mission is protecting whistleblowers who protect the public interest.
David Hutton, Executive Director (613) 567-1511