Monday 27 February 2017

Banks and government agencies reported to whistleblowers' site

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

BANKS, government agencies and corporations have all been shopped by their employees to a new whistleblowers' website.

Staff have raised concerns about a range of allegations including contract fraud and moving assets to other jurisdictions.

Whistleblowers Confidential has received just over 100 complaints since it was established at the start of the year.

Some 40pc of these have resulted in reports being forwarded to the relevant company or agency.

In the remaining cases, not enough information was submitted by the claimant for investigators to make a decision on its merits. And while corporations have all responded to the reports, most government agencies that were alerted to potential irregularities have failed to do so.

The website is run by Risk Management International (RMI), which includes a number of leading former gardai among its ranks, including former Assistant Garda Commissioner Tony Hickey. It guarantees anonymity for whistleblowers.

RMI chairman Peader Duffy, a former officer in the Defence Forces, said there had been a marked difference between the response of corporations and government agencies.

"In the case of the corporate entities, they all respond. In the case of government agencies, some do but most don't. They're more bureaucratic in their approach."

He said, in a number of cases where reports had gone to companies, the board of directors had established a sub-committee to review it.

The company can decide to take no action on foot of a report and is under no obligation to inform RMI of any outcome.

Complaints

"We don't investigate them (complaints), we evaluate them. 40pc of them have resulted in a notification to . . . banks, corporate entities and government agencies.

"The other 60pc of cases were ones where there was incomplete information.The information received wouldn't be sufficient in our view," said Mr Duffy. He said they had not yet come across a whistleblower who was acting maliciously in making a complaint, although they had encountered people who had "a strongly held view" but who cannot provide enough information to support their claim.

Most of those companies against which complaints were made have their own internal mechanisms for employees to voice concerns.

However, Mr Duffy said many people were reluctant to use these.

"The simple reality is that most people, if they're sitting on information they feel is serious, will talk to a friend or family member about it.

"When they talk to a friend or family member, most people caution them to keep their head down and do nothing, and most people take that advice.

"Most people find it very hard to trust the internal system. There have been cases in Ireland where whistleblowers have been fired and outed.

"We have a huge amount of respect for people who take it further and that's why we offer them free legal advice," he added.

The website allows members of the public to make an allegation anonymously or they can include their name and contact details. They can also opt to use a password and follow the status of the investigation. It is free to use.

RMI offers its paid services to companies against whom complaints have been made if they decide to hold a full investigation.

Irish Independent

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