Henry Kyambalesa (Personal view)
There is a need for countries worldwide to seriously consider the prospect of introducing pieces of legislation designed to protect whistleblowers in institutional settings.
In South Africa, for example, representatives of the government and participants at a National Anti-Corruption Summit convened in March 2005 resolved to encourage whistle-blowing and reporting in all sectors, and initiate measures designed to protect all persons from victimization where they expose corrupt and unethical practices.
The U.S. Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 provides another example.
It is a Federal law designed to protect Federal government whistleblowers who may report the possible existence of an activity constituting a violation of rules, laws or regulations, or the possible existence of mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.
Louis Clark, quoted by Stokols (2019), has provided a rationale for legislation designed to protect whistleblowers in the following words:
“[W]histleblowers are vital to protecting democracy, the rule of law, and [a country’s] … Constitution.”
In fact, protection and nurturing of ‘whistleblowing’ is one of the many viable ways and means by which a country can effectively fight against the scourge of corruption.
Whistleblower-protection legislation needs to protect whistleblowers against any kind of retribution or retaliatory measures, intimidation or reprimands by superiors in institutional settings, as well as include specific consequences for flouting the rules and regulations relating to whistleblower protections.
Such consequences should include prohibitive fines, incarceration, termination of employment, or impeachment.
The term “superiors” is used in this regard to include any and all persons in institutional settings who wield the power to hire, fire, promote, demote, appoint, and/or transfer other organizational members.
In passing, let us consider issues surrounding a whistleblower in the United States whose complaint prompted the country’s House of Representatives to launch an Impeachment Inquiry concerning the country’s president, Donald J. Trump, in September 2019.
The complaint alleged that Mr Trump had pressured newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, during a telephone conversation to furnish him with details of business dealings (in Ukraine) of former U.S. Vice President, Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, in exchange for financial assistance approved by the U.S. Congress.
Apparently, Mr Trump was not aware of, or deliberately ignored, the protections accorded to whistleblowers when, as reported by Sheth and Panetta (2019), he reacted to the complaint by casting the whistleblower who had filed the complaint against him as a ‘spy’ who might have committed treason, which, in his view, would be punishable by death.
Three Democratic Party members of the U.S. Congress (Elijah E. Cummings, Eliot L. Engel and Adam B. Schiff) issued a joint statement condemning Mr. Trump for what they referred to as “reprehensible intimidation” of a whistleblower, according to Axelrod (2019). The following is an excerpt from the statement:
“We condemn the President’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistleblower, and all whistleblowers. Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.”
The author, Henry ‘Muyange’ Kyambalesa, is a retired Zambian academic currently residing in the City and County of Denver in Colorado, USA. He has pursued studies at the University of Zambia, Oklahoma City University, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Denver, and has served as adjunct Assistant Dean and tenured lecturer in the School of Business at the Copperbelt University, and on the MBA Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in Denver, USA.
Axelrod, Tal, “Democratic Chairmen: Trump’s ‘Treason’ Comments Constitute ‘Reprehensible’ Intimidation,” The Hill:https://thehill.com/, September 26, 2019.
Clark, Louis, Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonpartisan group, quoted by Stokols, Eli, “Listen: Audio of Trump Discussing Whistleblower at Private Event: ‘That’s Close to a Spy’,” Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/, September 26, 2019.
Kyambalesa, Henry, “Global Issues and Challenges,” MS 2019: pages 44&45.
National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF), “Resolutions of the 2nd National Anti-Corruption Summit,” http://www.info.gov.za/, March 23, 2005.
Sheth, Sonam and Panetta, Grace, “President Donald Trump Suggested … that a Whistleblower Who Filed a Complaint against Him Is ‘a Spy’ Who May Have Committed Treason,” Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/, September 26, 2019.
Stokols, Eli, “Listen: Audio of Trump Discussing Whistleblower at Private Event: ‘That’s Close to a Spy’,” Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/, September 26, 2019.