Kuala Lumpur, 22 February 2017 – A new policy paper titled ” A critical look into the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010″ was released today by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).
Whistleblowing is the act of exposing information on illegal or unethical activities within an organisation. In his paper IDEAS Board Member and past President of the Malaysian Bar Christopher Leong reviews existing gaps in the Whistleblower Act 2010 (WPA 2010) and argues for legal reforms to improve whistleblower protection and facilitation.
Commenting on the paper, IDEAS Chief Executive Officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan said, “Many experts can agree that whistleblowing is one of the best ways to discover corruption. In countries like the US, as much as 46% of fraud cases were discovered due to whistleblowers but in Malaysia the numbers are extremely low. Only 28 out of 8,953 complaints made to the MACC in 2012 were by whistleblowers. This is approximately 0.3% of cases. What this indicates is that there are severe gaps in what should be reported and what is currently being reported.”
“Although, there are several laws that address the issue of whistleblowing, there are sections in the WPA 2010 that fail to provide adequate protections to whistleblowers and in some cases discourage whistleblowing. Individuals that report information that fall under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for example, can get charged with a RM 1 million fine or imprisonment of up to 1 year or both. But p ublic servants and lawmakers who are privy to more sensitive information should be encouraged to highlight cases of fraud or corruption instead of being punished ,” explained Wan Saiful.
“Furthermore, the act does not allow whistleblowers to speak to 3rd parties like lawyers, employers or civil society. They can only report cases directly to enforcement agencies like the police and the MACC. Considering, the immense amount of stress faced by witnesses, the act has to consider the needs of the whistleblower. An individual may be more comfortable speaking to their personal lawyer as opposed to a public authority. In the UK, Australia and many other countries it is common for whistleblowers to report cases to the media or to a policy maker. These individuals are still protected under the law unlike in Malaysia,” Wan explained further.
“Finally, a major setback to the Act is the level of executive control over whistleblower protection. The act gives the Minister (it does not specify which Minister) complete power to direct the enforcement agency’s actions in carrying out this act. But this is completely contradictory to the purpose of the act, which is to help expose misconduct in public officials. The best option is to have an independent body, like an Ombudsman manage the whistleblowing process. This body could also act as a one-stop point for whistleblowers instead of whistleblowers having to go to specific enforcement agencies”.