10. SURVEY EMPLOYEES. All the planning and money spent building the perfect
infrastructure will be wasted if employees do not know the program exists or if they
feel their disclosures are not going to be taken seriously. An anonymous survey will
reveal their level of comfort with the program; their opinion about the
organization's commitment to integrity, fairness, and openness; and their belief that
their disclosure will not result in retaliation and that corrective action will be taken.
Employee perceptions are key to the success of any whistleblower program. If
employees         refuse       to       use       it,      the       program        fails.
Protecting                               the                             Whistleblowers
Traditionally, whistleblowers have defied the status quo and communicated their
concerns to an authority outside the organization after realizing that the
improprieties they have witnessed are not being corrected internally. They have
taken this initiative at great risk, as multiple studies show whistleblowers often
suffer discrimination, retaliation, stress, and sometimes loss of their jobs or even
their                                                                            careers.
It is no wonder, then, that potential whistleblowers are hesitant to speak up within
their own organizations. According to an article in the Work and Occupations
journal, researchers estimate about one-third of all workers in the United States
have witnessed unethical or illegal conduct in their workplaces, but more than half
of them did not disclose what they observed. Moreover, an Australian study by the
Independent Commission Against Corruption found that 71 percent of workers
surveyed expect people who report improprieties to suffer for doing so.
In recognition of the valuable role insiders play in the discovery of fraud and
unethical practices, the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 includes a provision
protecting U.S. employees who disclose information or assist in detecting and
stopping fraud. The act also increases the accountability of senior officers and
members of the board of directors, and it requires that chief executive officers and
chief financial officers of public companies file a quarterly statement attesting to the
integrity of the organization's system of internal controls--something they cannot do
if     they    are     not    made       aware      of    irregularities   immediately.
HERNAN MURDOCK, CIA, is a project manager at Control Solutions
International and a lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.

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