Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ireland's first whistleblower helpline goes live

Ed Carty

The country's first whistleblowers' ethics and anti-corruption helpline goes live tomorrow.

Transparency International (TI) Ireland has set up the free, confidential alert to identify white-collar crime and waste of resources, and advise those affected.

John Devitt, TI Ireland chief executive, said the "Speak Up" helpdesk will allow concerned citizens to follow their conscience and act as a safe way to report.

"It takes courage and integrity to speak up and report corruption, fraud or the abuse of power," he said.

"I have been receiving calls from the public or whistleblowers for a long time asking for support and have planned this service for close to four years, but we were never able to secure the financial support to launch it.

"Given everything that we have learned about fraud, waste and corruption in both public bodies and our banks, it is a shame we weren't in a position to get it off the ground sooner. Maybe people just didn't see the need."

Similar whistleblowing systems are up and running in 40 countries across eastern Europe and central Asia.

Mr Devitt said 95,000 calls have been made to these centres since 2003.

"Thousands of people are helped in reporting corruption, fraud or waste by public officials every year. TI chapters have made a huge difference to the way in which the state is held accountable by its citizens," he added.

TI Ireland said the new helpline - 1800 844866 and online at speakup.ie - will be the first of its kind in western Europe.

The service will create a free confidential phoneline for people who wish to honestly report concerns regarding abuse of power and corruption, workplace fraud and waste of public resources or negligence.

TI Ireland have also promised to refer whistleblowers to lawyers if they need advice and representation, and also to offer expert support to people who wish to go public with bona fide cases of systemic abuses of power, white-collar crime or corruption.

Staff on the helpdesk will also report concerns to employers or relevant authorities on behalf of workers or citizens where both the complainant and employer or authority agree.

TI Ireland said it will publish statistics on the whistleblowing plan.

Pilot funding for the "Speak Up" helpline and service has been secured as part of an independent feasibility study by Warwick University and Constanz University in Germany, and funded by the European Commission.

The group is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, which works mainly in Ireland, the UK and South Africa, and whose trustees are Quakers, and public donations.

The helpline will be open 10am to 6pm between Monday and Friday.

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