Protect whistleblowers: Madonsela

Johannesburg - The current whistleblower protection law contains gaps that need to be plugged, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Tuesday.

“Apart from the narrow jurisdiction, there were other shortcomings, including the fact that the Protected Disclosures Act did not expressly define what would constitute retaliatory action by those in positions of power against those who dared to lift the lid on wrongdoing,” she said, according to a statement from her office.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi. Credit: Independent Newspapers

She was participating in a discussion in Stellenbosch on the reform of the whistleblower protection law, where the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffreys, alluded to the pending reform process.

She welcomed announcements that government planned to fast-track amending the act.

“The amendments will include, among other things, extending the ambit of the act to transcend employers and employees,” she said.

Madonsela welcomed suggestions by civil society organisations for the consideration of practices from some western countries, where incentives were used to encourage whistle-blowing.

In such cases, a whistleblower reporting wrongdoing involving money would be entitled to a portion of the funds if the case was prosecuted successfully.

Madonsela said whistleblowers were often charged for misconduct after reporting wrongdoing. She said one of the global practices to address this problem was to include a provision in the law that protected whistleblowers from this.

Madonsela gave examples of cases in the public sector and the corporate world where wrongdoing was brought to light through whistle-blowing. She mentioned the arms deal, the bread price-fixing scandal and the police leases' investigation.