Whistleblowing Webinar: Top of the World – But is this Real?

On 25 February 2021 the Public Service Association (PSA) and Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) jointly hosted a whistleblowing webinar, Top of the World - But Is this Real?, with live attendance of over 90 viewers. 

Andrea Fromm from the PSA was the Master of Ceremonies who facilitated the discussion by asking well chosen questions to each of the six presenters and fielding questions from the audience.

The presenters were:

  • Debbie Gee: TINZ 
  • Erin Polaczuk: PSA national secretary
  • Andrew Ecclestone: New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties
  • Michael Macaulay: Professor of Public Administration, Victoria University of Welliington 
  • Phil Guerin: President, Institute of Management Consultants. 

New Zealand has an enviable reputation for public sector transparency, democracy and press freedom. But how is it for people who speak up about wrongdoing? 

A particular focus was on the Protected Disclosures Bill which Parliament is currently considering.

A few of the key points:

Debbie Gee pointed out that there is no endpoint to integrity. Protection of whistleblowers is absolutely needed to prevent and reduce corruption.

Professor Michael Macaulay emphasised that we know what the proper processes are but they are not broadly implemented. New Zealand organisations are behind internationally in implementing effective disclosure processes.

Erin Polaczuk spoke to high integrity and speak-up cultures. Whistle blowing exists in the dynamic of the work place with the manager playing a key role. High trust promotes speak-up culture. This is the opposite of a command-and-control culture where bullying and fear live, which are very tough environments for speaking up when something is going wrong. 

The PSA is advocating for an independent oversight body to make the Protected Disclosures Act work. A one stop shop for oversite, advice, guidance. It should have the power to investigate, sanction and provide for personal protection. This is an international practice, and would be an absolute game changer. 

Andrew Ecclestone emphasised that all public service agencies need to be in alignment regarding whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is a very stressful activity. You are confronting real institutional power. Complications from being passed between departments and risks related to classified information, magnifies the stress.

Phil Guerin spoke primarily about the private sector. He noted that key outcomes of profit, return on investment and customer retention along with satisfying owners or shareholders, are all at risk when there is a lack of transparency.

Trust within any organisation is essential for executing its strategy.

This 42 minute webinar is well worth watching. Alternatively download a transcript of the webinar.

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