Clean as a whistle: a five step guide to better whistleblowing policy and practice

Michael Macaulay MA (Hons), MSc, PhD
Professor of Public Administration
School of Government
Victoria University Business School

A report advising on best practice for whistleblowing procedures – including establishing new forms of oversight – was launched this week.

The report, titled Clean as a whistle: a five step guide to better whistleblowing policy and practice in business and government, is the result of a major three-year study that has already produced numerous other reports on the state of play in New Zealand and Australia. The study is one of the largest pieces of research on whistleblowing ever undertaken and the first of its kind to compare public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

The New Zealand component was led by Professor Michael Macaulay from the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington, while the overall study was led by Professor A.J. Brown from Griffith University in Australia.

“The publication of our work could not be timelier for New Zealand,” says Professor Macaulay, “especially as the legislative reforms around the Protected Disclosure Act have been slightly delayed. The State Services Commission has made good progress on whistleblowing in the past few years with its ‘Speak Up’ standards and public consultation on the Act. I hope our report can add valuable insights to the discussion.”

This report presents key findings and actions flowing from the research project Whistling While They Work 2: Improving managerial responses to whistleblowing in public and private sector organisations – one of the world’s largest studies into whistleblowing, and the first large-scale project to focus on management of whistleblowing across business and government.

Key actions for success

According to the document’s preface:

“Coinciding with  proposals for further reform of whistleblower protection laws by governments from New Zealand to the European Union, the research helps pinpoint key actions which will make the difference for successful implementation of whistleblowing policies – at organisational and whole-of-government levels.

This guide works as a companion to new regulatory requirements, guidance and proposed standards for whistleblowing policies, programs and reform.

Whistleblowing is a vital pillar in the integrity, governance and compliance systems of every organisation, and healthy, corruption-free institutions across society as a whole. These key findings and actions identify what needs to be done, at practical and policy levels, to ensure this positive role is realised for all our benefits.”

Source: Brown, A J et al, Clean as a whistle: a five step guide to better whistleblowing policy and practice in business and government. Key findings and actions of Whistling While They Work 2, Brisbane: Griffith University, August 2019

The five steps to better whistleblowing policy are summarised as:

  • Recognising and assessing whistleblower disclosures
  • Supporting and protecting whistleblowers
  • Roles, responsibilities & oversight
  • The regulatory role: meeting new challenges
  • Public interest: respecting whistleblowing’s third tier

The report is timely given that the State Services Commission just published the recent submissions to the Protected Disclosures Act. The summary of submissions is available online, with links to all the submissions listed under Protected Disclosures Act 2000 on their Proactive Releases page (scroll towards bottom of page). (TINZ’s Protected Disclosures submission is here.)

Professor Macaulay is working on a New Zealand version to be released shortly.

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