Whistleblower protection

The third area of responsibility of the Ethics Officer relates to the protection of officials who believe that action has been taken against them because they have reported misconduct or cooperated with an audit or investigation (what is called whistleblower protection). This protection aims to reinforce the possibility for all officials to report cases where ethical standards have been disregarded without fear of retaliation.

The Ethics Office, however, does not replace any existing mechanisms available to staff for the reporting of misconduct or the resolution of grievances. A number of those mechanisms are listed in the Office Directive on ethics in the Office, paragraphs 17 to 20. This means that the Ethics Officer does not serve as a mechanism for reporting misconduct.

As described in the Office Procedure on "Ethics in the Office: Whistleblower protection", (IGDS N° 186) the Ethics Officer is called upon to make a preliminary review of complaints by staff who allege retaliation subsequent to their reporting misconduct or cooperating with an audit or investigation.

This preliminary review may ultimately lead to the referral of the matter to HRD for consideration of possible disciplinary action. Such a referral by the Ethics Officer would be a "qualified" referral, thus carrying some additional influence.

In a potential whistleblower protection situation, there is the need to protect not only the staff member alleging retaliation but also the rights of the accused official, ensuring the fairness and transparency of the whole procedure. It is especially important in such a sensitive situation to strictly follow the rules of natural justice and due process.