Unit to protect whistleblowers a step in the right direction

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s undeniable that the Government has copped a lot of flak over its catch cry about accountability, transparency and good governance. 

More often than not, critics of Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s administration have taken the Government to task over their perceived failure to walk the talk and deliver on their promise to be transparent and accountable. 

And rightly so in many cases which we will not delve into in this piece.

Suffice to say, the Government has a moral obligation to deliver on what it promises, especially when it comes to accountability and transparency. 

Indeed, leaders of these public offices are accountable to the people who put them there in the first place. Let them be reminded that they are there to be transparent and walk the talk when it comes to good governance. Part of that involves dealing with corruption and not burying it under the mat as if it is nobody’s business.

Today, however, we believe there is reason to be optimistic in the pursuit for truth and justice when it comes to dealing with corruption and abuse of power in public offices. 

Last week, a story published on the pages of this newspaper revealed that a Unit has been set up within the Audit Office to protect whistleblowers in the public sector who want to report fraud and other irregularities. 

This is a fantastic step, one the Government should be commended for.

By definition, a whistleblower is a “person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.” In other words, they are people who report on other people who commit fraud, steal, engage in forgery and all kinds of different corrupt activities.

The development follows a recommendation that the Audit Office facilitates voluntary reporting of fraud and other irregularities, and ensure there is legal protection for whistleblowers. 

Talks about the Unit started in 2014. Today, the Unit is up and running.

According to the Audit Office, it has been formed with newly qualified Certified Fraud Examiners (C.F.E.). There are also plans in the pipeline to recruit legal and Police experts to assist.

 “The special Audit unit will also make use of new audit laws effective from January 2014 with whistle blowing clauses facilitating the voluntary reporting of fraud and irregularities with legal protection and without repercussions,” the Audit Office revealed. 

“The special audit unit will also set up a Samoa C.F.E. Forum or Chapter to network and seek resources and expertise from A.C.F.E. when required.” 

“The Audit Office C.F.E’s have received C.F.E. training and qualification and now need the professional experience to translate theory into practice.”

And what might that mean?

Well the Audit Office does not say.

But let’s break it down a bit. When someone in the public service is found to have engaged in corrupt activities, in the ideal world, they should be investigated, charged and jailed. It’s that simple. 

That hardly happens in Samoa.

And one of the reasons why is because this is a small country where everyone knows someone. There are many cases where whistleblowers get cold feet because their identities often end up being exposed and they pay the price. 

This is why many of them have chosen to remain silent, much to the demise of the pursuit for truth and justice, accountability, transparency and good governance.

But the new Unit for Whistleblowers in the Audit Office is such an encouraging step. Our only hope is that the Unit is run with integrity and the sort of professionalism that truly ensures that information and its sources are protected, to allow justice to take its course. 

Have a great Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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