Efficient whistle blowers protection is necessary, but the draft law cannot provide for it
An efficient system of the whistle blowers protection would be a significant contribution to the fight against corruption, but the draft law shall not provide for it, warned the Ombudswoman Lora Vidović the Ministry of Justice.
For example, the draft law focuses on ensuring the channels and principles for denouncing irregularities, while the protection of whistle blowers is insufficiently elaborated. It is not stipulated how and in which timeframe should the bodies, relevant for the fight against corruption like prosecutor’s office (USKOK) and inspections, act in the context of implementation of this law, though crucial for an efficient resolution of complaints and whistle blowers protection. Internal reporting is also insufficiently regulated since only the employer chooses the confidential person, who investigates reports of irregularities, without the participation of other employees, making it possible to cover up the report. Namely, according to this draft, an employer shall not have an obligation to neither include employees in election of a confidential person nor to inform an external body about a complaint itself, which makes all procedure insufficiently efficient and transparent. Also, there are no sanctions for an attempt to prevent reporting or influence the work of the confidential person.
The draft law envisages the Office of Ombudswoman to be an authority for external reporting of irregularities. However, the institution does not have the constitutional authority for doing that since, the enlisted irregularities include, for example, those regarding public procurement, financing terrorism, nuclear security and even those in relation to health and wellbeing of animals, which does not represent violation of constitutional rights of citizens therefore fall outside of the Ombudswoman’s mandate. In brief, if adopted in such wording, the purpose of this draft law shall not be met, while the possibility for challenging its constitutionality will be opened.
Finally, the solutions contained in this draft law are not well considered and elaborated and as such shall not provide neither for an efficient removal of irregularities nor for an adequate protection of whistle blowers. It is a missed opportunity to significantly strengthen the fight against corruption in Croatia by building of a comprehensive system for safe reporting of irregularities, their efficient investigation, elimination and sanctioning as well as an adequate protection of whistle blowers.
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