New Legislation in Whistleblower Protection: Clear Information is a Prerequisite for Protection
As of 2019, the Ombudswoman performs the mandate of the dedicated external reporting channel for whistle-blower protection
The Act for the Protection of Persons Reporting Irregularities was first adopted in 2019, and the new Act came into force on 23 April 2022. The purpose of the Act is to provide efficient protection of the reporting persons, which includes the provision of accessible and reliable reporting channels.
Same as before, there are three available reporting channels: internal, external and public disclosure. However, the new Act allows for the reporting of irregularities to the external channel either after having previously reporting them to the internal channel or directly. Previously, reporting directly to the external channel was only possible under certain conditions (immediate danger, no internal channel established etc.).
Access to Clear and Correct Information on Obligations and Rights is of Key Importance
In order for the new legislation to provide the highest possible level of protection to the persons reporting irregularities (“whistleblowers”), its provisions need to be implemented correctly. One of the prerequisites for this is ensuring access to clear and correct information to both the whistleblowers as well as the confidential persons and their deputies on their rights and the obligations stemming from the Act.
With this in mind, we prepared a set of answers to numerous questions on the Act’s provisions, aiming to make this information accessible and useful to all those interested in the matter. In this text, we are focusing on two of aspects regarding the provisions on our proceedings, while you can find the full Q&A here.
What does the Ombudswoman’s procedure following reports of irregularities consist of?
Having received a report on irregularities, the Ombudswoman will acknowledge its receipt to the reporting person within a seven-day deadline. The receipt confirmation will be foregone at the reporting person’s express request and in cases when there is reasonable probability that it could lead to the disclosure of the reporting person’s identity.
If in their report the reporting person has made it plausible that she/he is being or might in the future be subject to retaliation for reporting irregularities the Ombudswoman will investigate the claims and undertake measures falling within her mandates for her/his protection.
Having received the report, the Ombudswoman will forward it to the competent authorities within a reasonable time frame and in a safe manner and notify the reporting person without delay. When following-up on a report, the Ombudswoman will protect the reporting person’s identity as well as the confidentiality of the information contained in the report and will prevent any unauthorized disclosure of these data as well as their sharing with any other persons, unless regulated otherwise by a special regulation or unless the reporting person consents to the disclosure of this information. The competent authorities the report was forwarded to are obliged to notify the Ombudswoman on the actions taken within a deadline of 30 days as well as on the outcome of their proceedings within a deadline of 15 days.
The Ombudswoman is mandated to provide general legal information regarding the procedures and the channels for the reporting of irregularities and public disclosure as well as protection measures available to the reporting persons under the Act.
With the whistleblower’s consent, the Ombudswoman, as well as organizations, institutions, civil society organizations and other natural or legal persons active in the field of human rights protection and combating corruption, can participate in such court proceedings as a third-party intervener.
The Ombudswoman will notify the reporting person on the status of their case and the follow-up actions taken within a deadline of typically no less than 30 and no more than 90 days. In case of justified reasons, this deadline can be prolonged to up to six months.
Following the finalization of the proceedings, the Ombudswoman notifies the reporting person of their outcome without delay.
In What Types of Cases will the Ombudswoman not act?
The Ombudswoman will not follow-up on the irregularities reports in the following cases:
- if, after having duly assessed the matter, she decides that a reported irregularity is clearly minor and does not require further action
- in cases of repetitive reports which do not contain any meaningful new legal or factual information on irregularities compared to a past report in respect of which the relevant procedures were concluded.
The Ombudswoman will not conduct an investigation procedure aimed at protecting the reporting person from retaliation they are or might be suffering in their work environment in cases when court proceedings have already been instigated for that purpose.
The Ombudswoman will notify the reporting person about the reasons for forgoing following-up on their report.
For more information about the new Croatian legislation on whistleblower protection, read the full Q&A here.
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