Whistleblowing inside a company is a process that sometime doesn’t go very smooth or the employee does not feel safe when filling a complaint, says Denisa Simion, Manager Forensic and Integrity Services, Ernst & Young at BR’s 18th edition of BR’s Tax, Law & Lobby | Focus on Whistleblower.
Q. How can we create a secure environment for employees to blow the whistle within the company?
Denisa Simion: First of all, the companies must ensure the anonymity of the caller. They have to create a secure and stable working environment for the employees to feel valued and to feel they can go forward with their complaint. So, also they have to supported and in order to do that the best way would be for the company to give them the resources that they need.
One of this kind of support would be to give them an IT tool, the possibility to file the complaint online. We already know from our experience that throughout the time the companies create a system that is ineffective. They were ineffective because sometimes the lines were busy and the person who is calling is feeling afraid that he will be recognized or the person who is standing on the other side would not understand properly the complaints or would not understand what is the purpose and the content of the complaint. Or what are the needs of the whistleblower.
The best solution would be to provide an IT tool where the employee can go and fill the complaint that is 100 percent confidential. Meaning there is no physical connection, you are not going in front of someone to feel ashamed. More, you can see the status of the complaint online, you can see what is happening to it. You will know for sure that someone is taking care of your complaint. With the IT tool you can have an anonymous chat with the employee, you can ask to upload additional documents. This is vital for an investigation. If you only get the a few lines that the employee filled in the complaint, it may not be enough. So if you give him the chance to be anonymous or to upload other documents later, he will be more confident to go to the company with the complaint and not to external sources. The whistleblowers are going to the media or to authorities because they don’t feel safe to go inside the company. The IT tool would be the best solution to cover this needs of the whistleblower. Many times, a complaint cannot be followed by the employee, he won’t see what status it has, but an IT toll can solve this problem.
Our company develops such tools and there are many available on the market so every company can choose depending on their needs and can customize the tool according to what they should have in the company.
The IT tool or, let’s call it ‘the virtual complaint officer’ will not replace the human touch. This is something that comes to support the compliance officer. He will still exist and he will do a better job with the help of the tool.
Q. How can companies and institutions define their approach towards your application advising from the new EU directive on whistleblowing?
There are two types of companies< the one that already have a system in place for whistleblowing and those who don’t have any system implemented. Both of them have to be sure that they implement a methodology, an internal process and let the employees know that all the complaints are being considered. Also, they should organize regular training. Mandatory training sometimes can show to the employee that the company sees what the employee is going through. If they don’t have an internal investigation department they should get an external one.
Even if all this are seen to be costly, on the long term the company wins from avoiding penalties or avoiding that the reputation is affected. So this should be taken very seriously.