Give a little whistle

The concept of encouraging employees to do the right thing, to speak up or
talk openly is not new.

Yet in today’s age of corporate social responsibility and political
correctness, a whistleblower is all too often frowned upon or ostracised in the

They may become the subject of an investigation, face disciplinary action or
the sack. The majority of whistleblowers are adversely affected by their

As finances tighten there can be little doubt that instances of fraud will
increase. At the lowest end of the spectrum employees may take opportunities to
add a little extra on to blank taxi receipts, submit duplicate invoices or claim
for personal mileage. At the higher end of the spectrum theft of data may occur,
books may be cooked and bogus suppliers set up.

Now, more than ever, companies need to protect themselves and their employees
by encouraging whistleblowers to come forward.

With rising fuel prices, transport costs and household bills, larger numbers
of the UK population will feel exposed to financial risk if they put their ‘head
above the parapet’ and blow the whistle.

The concept of whistleblowing clearly needs to be embedded within the
company’s culture. Most companies will have a whistleblowing policy but this
will be ineffective unless the chief executive and the rest of the board and
senior management are seen to support the policy.

It is time for a radical re-think on the subject. Such changes may not be
enough and a ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ approach may now be required.

Some more forward-thinking companies are already tackling this problem and
are moving away from a voluntary disclosure policy. Their codes of conduct are
being amended so that every employee has a duty to report malpractice in the
workplace irrespective of their role or position within the company. Failure to
do so is a potential disciplinary offence.

A reward of some sort might also be effective in encouraging whistleblowers
to come forward, although neither of these options is particularly ‘British’.

Whistleblowing is one of the most important tools in the armoury in combating
the threats that businesses face from the menace of fraud. The more who come
forward, the sooner that threat will be countered.

Andrew Durant is a managing director in Navigant

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