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26 March 2008
Ghana has passed the long-awaited Whistleblowers Act. Under the act, disclosures may be made regarding:
The act is the culmination of stakeholder consultations and lobbying by civil society groups to enhance probity and accountability in the use of government resources. It outlines the instances and processes through which employees can disclose information on the illegal conduct or corrupt actions of their employers or fellow employees without fear of retribution.
The law allows the whistleblower to disclose the misuse of public funds to various groups. Consequently, the whistleblower is presented with several options on whom to disclose the information to. These include:
Where a disclosure is made to any of these persons or institutions, the recipient of the information must investigate the matter or refer it to the attorney general or other body as directed by the attorney general, who will initiate an investigation into the disclosure.
Protection and Immunity
A whistleblower is not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in respect of the disclosure unless it is proven that the whistleblower knew that the disclosure was false or that it was made with malicious intent. Additionally, a provision in an employment contract or other agreement between an employer and an employee is void if it seeks to preclude or discourage an employee from making a disclosure, instituting a court action or claiming a remedy for victimization.
Relevance to Corporate Governance
The whistleblower’s role in strengthening public sector corporate governance cannot be overemphasized. It provides a check on the actions of persons charged with the management of institutions that use public funds. Recent financial scandals - including the infamous Enron disaster - speak volumes about the importance of whistleblowing in ensuring accountability and good governance.
In Ghana, the review of the auditor general’s report on public institutions for the year ended December 2004/2005 by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee established that billions of cedis in revenue losses were attributable to fraud.
While the law makes significant inroads into corporate governance, in a culture where telling tales on others is highly frowned upon the law can have its desired effect only if the public conscience is alerted to the need for vigilance and public sector accountability and, ultimately, if people are prepared to blow the whistle on wrongdoing.
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