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Whistleblowing in Ghana: Why People Refuse to Blow the Whistle

Whistleblowing in Ghana: Why People Refuse to Blow the Whistle

By Joseph Antwi-Boasiako

(University of Ghana)

Whistleblowing can be a highly instrumental tool in curtailing corruption. A study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in 2018 found that the most common detection method for fraud are reports from whistleblowers. Whistleblower reports accounted for 40% of all detection methods for fraud in organisations (KPMG, 2020). The act of Whistleblowing is not a common practice in Africa and Ghana to be specific and this may be attributed to the absence of a robust framework or ineffectiveness of existing frameworks that is able to provide protection in the event that a whistle-blower identity is exposed. The absence of this framework also raises difficulty in promoting good corporate practices.

In Ghana, the Whistleblowers Act (Act 720) has been passed by the Parliament of Ghana in the year 2006 to give a legal framework for all issues of whistleblowing in Ghana. The Act has been described to provide for the manner in which individuals may in the public interest disclose information that relates to unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others; to provide for the protection against victimization of persons who make these disclosures; to provide for a Fund to reward individuals who make the disclosures and to provide for related matters. The ineffectiveness of the existing framework sometimes makes it difficult for people with admissible evidence still refuse to blow the whistle (Antwi-Boasiako, 2018; KPMG, 2020).  Whistleblowers take enormous risks, including retaliation in their professional life, arrest or worse, when they decide to speak out about wrongdoing. The Whistleblowers Act of 2006 (Act 720) acknowledges that people who blow the whistle are likely to be faced with some forms of victimization including dismissal, suspension, declaration of redundancy, denial of a promotion, transfer against your will, harassment, intimidation, threats, and to some extent discrimination.

A typical example of such a happening is the alleged case misappropriation by the Minister of Youth and Sports. The Minister in this case was alleged to have taken an amount of about $20,000 for his personal gains. And this happened on two different occasions. Again, he was alleged to have financed his girlfriend’s trip to Germany using the state resources and finally he was taking an amount of GH¢800 more than what he was supposed to be taking as per diem for his role as a Minister travelling with the sports teams. These were revealed by the Chief Director, Mr Albert Anthony Ampong and the Chief Accountant of the same ministry. In this case, the Whistleblowers under the Act 720, Section 3(1) made a disclosure to the president of Ghana. This led to the President asking the minister to resign without any further charges against him. The Daily Guide Newspaper reported that the people who witnessed the misappropriation and blew the whistle were asked to proceed on leave (a short suspension). The affected persons went to Court and got an order from the court to be reinstated. Because their identities were put out during the back and forth in the case so even after their reinstatement, the whistleblowers still encountered other forms of harassment like intimidation for blowing the whistle on this kind of misappropriation.

Where people don’t feel protected against these forms of harassment, and reporting and nothing happening to culprits, people may be reluctant to report wrongdoing.  However, when people feel they are very much protected, and the laws are being no respecter of persons, they will feel safe to blow the whistle. Again, where there is a reward system in place like the Ghana’s case, it motivates people to willingly give out any information that would earn them these benefits.