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EFFECTIVENESS OF WHISTLEBLOWING FRAMEWORKS IN AFRICA

Effectiveness of Whistleblowing Frameworks in Africa

On 24 March 2021, the Global South Dialogue on Economic Crime hosted a webinar themed ‘Effectiveness of Whistleblowing Frameworks in Africa’. The webinar’s core focus was to explore three jurisdictions: namely Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana to adduce how effective the frameworks and policies were for whistleblowers and whether adequate protection was given to those who blow the whistle on poor practices. The below provides an overview of the speakers’ presentations and the full version may be viewed here.

 

Pius Gumisiriza

Mr Gumisiriza explored the concept of whistleblowing in the context of Uganda and started with an important clarification of what whistleblowing consists. He argued that whistleblowing was an opportunity for people who have witnessed poor or bad practices to expose such acts to the relevant authorities. There is a framework to accommodate the act of whistleblowing in Uganda and Gumisiriza questioned whether this framework was effective and why corruption continues to be an ongoing challenge. In Uganda, it must be recognised that while there is this framework in place, corruption is actually on the increase and many corrupt acts are entrenched in the system. Gumisiriza moved the discussion forward by drawing a distinction between the Ugandan position and the position in the United Kingdom. He concluded that protection of the whistleblower is paramount and that more needs to be done in this respect to strengthen the current framework.

 

Ms Shelia Masinde

Ms Masinde delivered her presentation on Kenya’s perspective on whistleblowing. She discussed the work of Transparency International, particularly on the front of whistleblower protection, legislative policy and institutional framework. The work of Transparency International has been to promote the act of whistleblowing by citizens and to encourage the reporting of corruption. She referred to the previous presentation on Uganda and drew several similarities to suggest that the two economies were not very different in their fight against corruption and on the encouragement of the act of whistleblowing. 

Ms Masinde moved her discussion forward to focus on the whistleblower protection framework in Kenya and concluded that it has been disappointing so far. It was commented that it would be helpful to take lessons and adopt best practices from other countries that have adopted a whistleblower framework to see how best this could strengthen the Kenyan position.  

In concluding her presentation, Ms Masinde noted that one of the first steps necessary is to ensure that Kenya enacts a whistleblower protection Act and this was something that is being actively worked on. The key stakeholder in this respect is the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption in Kenya. It is also a desire to implement the Witness protection Act which has a strong bearing on the overall whistleblower protection. 

 

Mr Joseph Antwi Boasiako 

Mr Antwi Boasiako commenced his presentation by discussing in detail the different reasons why people blow the whistle. He noted that some do so to alert the public to serious wrongdoings. Others blow the whistle to ensure that they offer another layer of protection for the environment that they are in. Some people blow the whistle to satisfy their conscience and to feel that they have done the right thing. He went further to discuss the findings of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, which found that 40% of fraud around the world within organisations has been uncovered through the act of whistleblowing.  

In the case of Ghana, the current Whistleblower Act provides some instances where a person can blow the whistle. He noted a few, including seeing that someone is doing something in relation to an economic crime. The second is knowing that something is about to happen or is already happening. 

He also noted that in Ghana’s case, a person blows the whistle to anyone who is closest to them. This could be a family member or at a police station. It was suggested that in terms of a higher-ranking individual, there is not necessarily an accessible person who can act on a discussion of whistleblowing and thus there is no guarantee that there will be any action following a disclosure. In conclusion, it was noted that in Ghana, a person has the right to speak up if something is not right. He urged Ghanaians to speak up in instances where they witness wrongful acts taking place.

  

Dr. Ejemen Ojobo 

Dr. Ojobo discussed the effectiveness of whistleblowing in Nigeria. She noted that Nigeria does not have an effective whistleblower protection framework and there is no comprehensive policy in place. She compared the position to Kenya in that Nigeria has fragmented pieces of legislation which offer protection in Nigeria but there is no single point within the statutes. She provided examples of some of these fragmented legislations – including the Nigerian constitution. She also noted other Acts, including the Independent Corrupt Practices Act 2000 and Other Related Offences Act and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2004.

Dr. Ojobo also noted the Stop Gap Policy which was introduced in 2016. It was noted that it has been effective as there have been some recoveries made, totalling around £13M. She provided some examples of the consequences of whistleblowing and used Aliyu Ibrahim as an example of such. She noted a person of interest from the house of Representatives where the whistle was blown on budget fraud within the house. Dr. Ojobo also noted the case of Mr Thompson in which there was some progress: he blew the whistle on bad practices, then was initially fired and later reinstated. He suffered a lot of victimization when he returned to the organization, culminating in his being transferred to a different department. And he even now still fights for the arrears of his salary during the period in which he was fired. 

Dr. Ojobo concluded that in terms of overall effectiveness, Nigeria has made some progress but there remains no Act in place (noting the bills of 2008;2011;2016; and 2017). Nigeria is currently still deliberating a 2019 bill and it is hoped that this will come into force in the near future.