Wednesday 21 February 2018

Central Bank whistleblower hotline went unanswered

Karl Deeter: Situation over phone line not good enough
Karl Deeter: Situation over phone line not good enough
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The Central Bank has been left red-faced after it emerged a whistleblower phone hotline it set up was not manned, while the voicemail was not activated.

There were also issues with emails sent to the special whistleblower address not being answered.

Following the banking collapse, the Central Bank was pressed to put a so-called protected disclosure facility in place that would allow staff in financial services companies to report questionable and illegal activity, particularly in banks.

The banking collapse cost taxpayers €64bn.

The whistleblower hotline was not answered when this journalist called it a number of times over the past few days.

A senior person in a financial institution, spoken to by this newspaper, who emailed the special whistleblower email address at the Central Bank, says he got no response.

Legislation was enacted in 2013 to give whistleblowers protection when making disclosures to the Central Bank.

As well as protecting whistleblowers, the protected disclosures law places obligations on certain categories of people in firms to disclose breaches of financial services legislation to the Central Bank.

Whistleblowers making a disclosure under the law must have reasonable grounds for believing there has been a breach of financial services legislation or the concealment or destruction of evidence relating to such an offence.

Crucially, the protected disclosures law means whistleblowers are protected from civil liability, and their employer may not penalise them for making the disclosure. An employer may be prosecuted for penalising an employee who makes a protected disclosure.

Compliance officer with Irish Mortgage Brokers Karl Deeter said it was not good enough that the whistleblower phone line was not being answered and emails not getting a response.

"Imagine if you called 999 to report a crime and no-one answered. What would you think of our police service?" he said.

A Central Bank spokesman claimed the problem has now been rectified after the situation was raised with it by the Irish Independent.

"This arose from an IT problem. When notified of the outage, we immediately amended the numbers on the website to ensure that calls were routed to a staff member's number, restoring access for anyone looking to make a disclosure.

"The 1890 number is now restored, and is back on"

He said correspondence received by the Central Bank through its protected disclosure channel is treated seriously and examined thoroughly.

"It is a valuable channel for the Central Bank to receive reports in a confidential form.

"Where a person wishes to disclose to the Central Bank an alleged offence, breach of financial services legislation or concealment or destruction of evidence of such, they may make the disclosure by post, email or over the phone," the spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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