More effective protection needed for public sector whistle-blowers

Delegates attending a meeting held to discuss better protection for whistle-blowers working in the public sector have concluded that more effective legislation and protection mechanisms should be put in place, to protect whistle-blowers and combat corruption and other wrongdoing.

The ILO Technical meeting on the protection of whistle-blowers in the public service sector  looked at the challenges countries face in ensuring these protections. Representatives from governments, employers and workers concluded that governments, in cooperation with employers and public sector worker organizations, should put legislation and policies in place to combat any form of retaliation, violence and harassment linked with disclosures.

Protecting public service workers, including those working in public sector oversight bodies is “fundamental to the advancement of decent work, efficient public service delivery, and social justice, and also a useful tool against corruption,” said Luis C. Melero, Vice-Chairperson of the Government Group.

The meeting concluded that corruption and other forms of wrongdoing distort public administration and government budgets, leading to the inefficient provision of public services, reduced public investment, decent work deficits and slower economic growth.

“Protecting whistle-blowers in the public sector can make it easier to detect bribery solicitation, misuse of public funds, waste, fraud, and other forms of corruption across the economy,” said Paul Mckay, Employers’ Vice-Chairperson. “Anticorruption measures are part of an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises.”

Attendees discussed how social dialogue can help identify strategies to strengthen the protection of whistle-blowers and be part of the architecture that protects the impartiality of the public service sector and its workers from undue influence. It can also help develop a culture of transparency, accountability, and zero tolerance for corruption and wrongdoing in the sector. The meeting highlighted the important role of governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in promoting such a culture.

“Governments and social partners recognized that there are normative gaps in whistleblower protection and that social dialogue is key to design a pathway towards a global normative framework in line with the ILO mandate,” said Wim Vandekerckhove, Workers’ Vice-Chairperson.

“We should ensure the legitimacy of whistle-blowers within the public service. We must provide collective action networks to protect whistle-blowers from being isolated or made obvious targets for retaliation,” said Judge Dhaya Pillay, Chair of the meeting.

The conclusions and recommendations adopted by the meeting, which took place 26–30 September, in Geneva, are designed to assist governments, employers and workers safeguard the efficiency and impartiality of the public service sector and adequately protect whistle-blowers.