The whistleblowing landscape has changed significantly over the last years. High profile cases have prompted new whistleblower protection regulations and legislation across the globe. But whistleblowing is no longer just a matter of legal interest. It has also become a societal issue. Names such as Edward Snowden, Julien Assange, or Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning have been known worldwide for their efforts to uncover injustice. In South Africa whistleblowers such as Bianca Goodson, Suzanne Daniels, Angelo Agrizzi and Cynthia Stimpel have been central in exposing state capture. One thing that has emerged, in addition to the extent to which the country and its citizens have been played and done in, is that some of these whistleblowers had no joy by reporting through the safe reporting channels offered by their organisations. For this their employers could, of course, be blamed because they did not act on the reports. But it could also be that their reporting systems are ineffective, do not honour the confidentiality of reports, or the anonymity of reporters.
The Ethics Institute (TEI) has realised the importance of the quality of safe reporting systems for these very reasons. As a result, we developed a Standard for Independent External Whistleblowing Hotline Service Providers who operate a 24/7 call centre. This Standard was redeveloped in 2018 to make provision for technological and other advancements in the industry. The redeveloped Standard, applicable to safe reporting systems managed by independent safe reporting service providers, and renamed SafeLine-EX, is a best practice standard that specifies requirements for a quality safe reporting system managed by independent safe reporting service providers. Independent safe reporting service providers use the Standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide quality services that protect whistle-blowers.
But being cognisant of the fact that some organisations prefer an inhouse, 24/7 safe reporting capacity, TEI also developed SafeLine-IN, based on the same principles and norms as SafeLine-EX and aimed at effective services that protect whistleblowers.
In 2020 we took the Standard further with the input of industry experts, by developing SafeLine-DigEX which specifies requirements for a quality digital safe reporting system managed by independent safe reporting service providers using only digital platforms.
What are these Standards?
SafeLine-EX, SafeLine-IN and SafeLine-DigEX are a set of best practice norms for professional and ethical conduct for external and internal safe reporting service providers (hereafter ‘service providers’) operating their own facilities or using only digital platforms that enable client organisations (hereafter ‘clients’) to report observed or perceived unethical conduct confidentially and anonymously.
What are the objectives of the Standards?
The objectives are:
- To strengthen the external, internal, and digital safe reporting industry by establishing a best practice industry standard
- To provide quality assurance to organisations requiring such safe reporting services
- To create conditions in which would-be whistleblowers can report misconduct with confidence
- To differentiate legitimate from non-legitimate service providers
- To discourage sub-standard service providers from entering the market
- To certify service providers as a “TEI-Certified Safe Reporting Service Provider”.
How do these Standards benefit independent service providers and clients?
Complying with these Standards helps service providers to:
- Organise their internal systems and processes
- Improve the efficiency of their internal systems and processes
- Continually improve their service delivery
- Create conditions in which would-be whistleblowers are able to report misconduct with confidence
- Provide assurance to client organisations in terms of:
- confidentiality of information
- protection of whistle-blowers’ identity
- professional service delivery
- quality of reports.
The main reason for employees and other stakeholders in South Africa to refrain from reporting misconduct, is the belief that the organisation will not act. TEI regularly emphasises the importance of acting on all reports through our thought leadership activities, workshops, and presentations. It is, however, for the organisation to decide to heed our advice or not.
The first step in the right direction is to have a trustworthy and professional safe reporting service provider that delivers on its promises of maintaining the confidentiality of information and protecting whistleblowers beyond legal requirements. With our SafeLine Standards we provide assurance in this regard to organisations.
Advance Call Ethics & Fraud Hotline
To assist organisations in combating fraud and corruption, Advance Call has established the Ethics & Fraud Hotline. The Advance Call Ethics & Fraud Hotline is a trustworthy and professional safe reporting service provider, certified by The Ethics Institute as a Safeline-Ex service provider.
Contact Advance Call for a quote today: https://acall.co.za/ethics-hotline-contact/.
- Thüsing, G. and Forst, G. 2016. Whistleblowing Around the World: A Comparative Analysis of Whistleblowing in 23 Countries. In G. Thüsing and G. Forst (Eds.): Whistleblowing. A comparative study (pp. 3 – 32). Switzerland: Springer.
- Groenewald, L. and Vorster, P. 2019. The South African Business Ethics Survey 2019. Pretoria: The Ethics Institute. [Online] Available at www.tei.org.za.