Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Whistleblowers need to be protected, says accountants group

Companies and public sector organisations must make a "cultural commitment" to upholding whistleblowing, an accountants' organisation has said.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants said organisations must get disclosure rules right so that wrongdoing can be exposed.

Recent whistleblowing cases include the exposure of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service after allegations about wrongdoing including unapproved staff bonus payments, failures to deal with staff grievances, fraud and a potential conflict of interest.

One of its whistleblowers was suspended from work even though the allegations were eventually substantiated by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Anthony Harbinson, vice-president of the ACCA and director of safer communities at the NI Department of Justice, said anyone wanting to disclose information in good faith should feel assured it would be treated seriously and investigated properly.

"Often, those who speak out within or outside an enterprise are regarded as troublemakers who cannot be relied upon. If individuals do not believe their disclosure will be handled properly then matters which are potentially important to the governance of the entity will not be made," Mr Harbinson said.

However, ACCA said financial or other incentives should not be offered to potential whistleblowers.