PROTECTING THE WHISTLEBLOWERS
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PROTECTING THE WHISTLEBLOWERS 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.