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Many South Africans afraid to blow the whistle on misconduct – survey

Public Protector: We're not fighting with Gordhan, we want to help him clear his name

There is an apparent increase in the number of South
Africans who say they have personally seen misconduct, a survey by The Ethics
Institute shows – but many are still too afraid to report it.

According to Liezl Groenewald, a senior manager at The
Ethics Institute, their survey shows that a third of employees in corporate
South Africa observe misconduct personally, yet only about half of those who
do, end up reporting it.

Fear victimisation

“People fear that they are not safe when they report
something.

“They fear victimisation and fear that organisations
will not do anything about it and just sweep it under the carpet,” she
said during a panel discussion at a business against corruption-themed event
hosted by online publication Daily
Maverick
on Thursday.

“We hope to assist organisations and people who are
still too scared to come out. We want to help them by giving them the training
to have the moral courage to speak up and do the right thing,” she said.

“If you do not do it, the (misconduct) will become the
norm and you might become one of those people who will always just complain.
How must the organisation know that it is doing something wrong if you do not
tell them?”

It is important to create a safe space for employees where
their confidentiality will be protected, she added.

Whistleblowers
targeted

“Unfortunately, what happens is that a (whistleblower)
report lands on a desk in the organisation somewhere and we often see a
reaction from the company of ‘forget the message let us see who is the
messenger’,” said Groenewald.

“That is where the problem comes in, the whistleblowers
then lose their protection and the victimisation starts.”

During the panel discussion, Stephen van Coller, group CEO
of EOH, agreed that, if you don’t provide whistleblowers with the right
environment, you won’t get any information. He said about 40% of fraud reported
comes from whistleblowers.

If SA is really serious about fighting corruption, something
must be done about protecting whistleblowers, he added.

Another member of the panel, OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage, said
the organisation is approached by a lot of whistleblowers, but unfortunately
many are not prepared to come forward and testify.Cynthia Stimpel, a former group treasurer at state-owned airline South African
Airways, shared how OUTA supported her after she raised the alarm on an SAA
contract that was costing the airline tens of millions of rand in pointless
fees.  

“Whistleblowers are perceived to be traitors and
snakes. It can be a lonely, hard place, but I would do it again. I know what my
moral compass is,” said Stimpel, who recently testified at the Zondo
commission of inquiry into state capture. 



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