(English) Government’s protection of whistleblowers is insufficient

Robert Kaliňák, the proposer of Whistleblower Protection Act says that the new law is “another brick in the dam” used by the Government to limit corruption in Slovakia. On the contrary, the commentator Marián Leško thinks that the law will not be “a brick in the dam”, but “a stone thrown in water.” Now, a year later, which of these two statements still holds true?

 

Since July until September Transparency International Slovakia reviewed how Labor Inspectorates had coped with the implementation of the Act. Our review has led us to worry that the Act will suffer the same fate as the bill on proving the origin of property. Which means, the Act will be in force, but it will be respected only formally and end without real outcomes,” says Pavel Nechala, the lawyer of TIS.

Labor inspectorates did not receive any requests for whistleblowers protection since January to the end of August. Since the beginning of the year the Inspectorates are obligated to protect whistleblowers against adverse employment actions, such as dismissal from work or redeployment to another position. Whistleblowers can turn to the Inspectorate if they suffered sanctions as a result of reporting malpractices at the workplace.

In the same time Labor Inspectorates provided protection for seven whistleblowers, who reported malpractices to the police, the prosecutor’s office or other administrative authorities which, in turn instructed the Inspectorates to provide protection.

The low number of whistleblowers taken under Labor Inspectorates protection indicates the weak implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

An insufficient number of requests can be caused by the low quality of Labor Inspectorates’ work. None of the Inspectorates responded to a TIS associate’s request for advice fast enough to enable a whistleblower to ask for suspension of adverse employment action. After an unlawful dismissal from work an employee has to turn to a Labor Inspectorate within 7-day limit.

Response deadline The number of inspectorates
Within 7 days 1 (responded on the seventh day)
Within 14 days 6
After 14 days 2 (no response to emails, responded only after a follow-up phone call

In most cases the complainant was not provided with all necessary information, even if the Inspectorate responded quickly. Nearly two thirds of Inspectorates did not recognize whistleblowing and they did not mention the possibility of whistleblower protection.

On the whole, Labor Inspectorates inform about the protection of whistleblowers insufficiently and information on their websites is incomplete as well. They also have not taken any further actions to inform the public about protection available to whistleblower such as sample cases, trainings or informational materials.

A weak implementation of the Act can be caused by the fact that the Government has not allocated any extra finances for the Inspectorates to protect whistleblowers. It means that their responsibilities have been on the increase with the new law, but financial and personnel resources have not changed.

Pavel Nechala, the lawyer of TIS says: “The current situation shows that the state administration has failed to implement the Act.” Whistleblowing is the most effective tool for uncovering malpractices. Two out of five private sector reports help to uncover fraud. Internal audits are much less successful.

Our recommendations

The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family should explore whether current financial and personnel resources of Labor Inspectorates are sufficient to protect whistleblowers effectively.

Labor Inspectorates should provide more information about their role in the protection of whistleblowers. Information should be easily accessible, comprehensible even for the general public and focused on the needs of users. Labor Inspectorates should ensure prompt communication with potential whistleblowers and provide them with all necessary information. Regular trainings for inspectors or sample answers could be helpful.

Read the whole study “Whistleblowers protection is only on paper (Plus three case studies from abroad)” here.

Contact:

Pavel Nechala, nechala@transparency.sk, 0908 726 501

Zuzana Dančíková, dancikova@transparency.sk, 02 5341 7207

Print Friendly