Croatia: Fight Against Corruption And President’s Important Step In Earnest Protection Of Whistleblowers

celebrate-whistleblowers-600

 

Those who are brave enough to expose corruption, fraud and similar criminal deeds should enjoy a privileged status in any society especially the one where corruption and fraud are seen as major stumbling blocks of economic prosperity and opportunity for individuals to progress in life on their merit and positive contribution to society. In Croatia, whistleblowers have exposed more crimes of corruption, fraud and breaches of laws and regulations oiled by bribery than the police or any government run institution in the fight against corruption/crime but often allegations of corruption have gathered dust in various drawers, unattended. In Croatia, whistleblowers still do not enjoy the protection they deserve and most are ostracised as some kind of “social lepers”, lose their jobs and their families suffer.
So it is no wonder that like in many countries of the world whistleblowers in Croatia have been organising themselves into associations, clubs and the like, particularly in the larger cities.

Effective whistleblower programs can have a real impact on the quality of corporate governance but there is no doubt that there is a plethora of cases where those who have had the courage to come forward, have suffered adversely because of direct retaliation or lack of action by government and/or regulators.

 

During her presidential election campaign Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic had announced that she would, if elected, form the Whistleblowers office/unit attached to the Office of the President. Into the second month of her presidency her office has mid-March 2015 announced that the President will soon, within weeks, establish a Whistleblowers unit attached to her office.

President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

President of Croatia
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

And while organising such an office President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has, according to news reports, on 24 March 2015 named Vesna Balenovic as her adviser for whistleblowers.

Vesna Balenovic Croatian Whistleblower Association

Vesna Balenovic
Croatian Whistleblower Association

Vesna Balenovic is a well-known whistleblower, and fighter for whistleblower rights in Croatia who had suffered terrible ordeals after having exposed corruption in INA, Croatia’s leading oil company some fifteen years ago (the same company in which the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader had delved corruptly and is currently serving a prison sentence for the corruption).
Protection laws and regulations for whistleblowers exist in many countries but Croatia lags far behind. The US Whistleblower protection laws consist of number of Federal and State rules and regulations. They have proved to be effective in most cases in providing legal protection for employees (from both public and private sectors) who call attention to violations, help with enforcement proceedings etc.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of the Whistleblower has been formed and appointed to reward those whistleblowers that report violations in relation to breaches of federal securities laws; a similar ‘bounty’ program has been introduced by Internal Revenue service (US taxation office) to reward reporters of tax frauds. This has been done in order to encourage people (employees) to submit their tips – to blow the whistle on violations and violators.
The UK is fortunate to have The Public Interest Disclosure Act, a single, comprehensive Whistleblower protection law that provides protection to both public and private sector whistleblowers. It was introduced in 1998 and amended in 2013. This Act has its origins in the numerous financial scandals that may have been avoided if employees had been provided an opportunity to report wrongdoing.

 

Employees in the European Union enjoy some whistleblowing protection as part of the ruling made by The European Court of Human Rights in 2011, but only a handful of European countries have actually introduced laws to protect whistleblowers.

 

 

There is a research based consensus that there is a definite link between the number of whistleblowing reports and the existence of comprehensive and effective whistleblower protections laws in a country. Even without a comprehensive national piece of whistleblower legislation in place, implementing internal whistleblower programs within companies brings about whistleblower protection and minimise damage to the life of the whistleblower while it increases the common good for all employees and the company as a whole.

 

 

Whistleblowers are not protected in Croatia and there is an absolute need for processes that will change the perception towards whistleblowers or those brave enough to point to violations at work wherever they occur but always signify likely practices of corruption, fraud and the like. It’s important to change the perception at levels of society so that whistleblowers are not seen as snitches but rather courageous and respected persons and, equally, they need strong and multifaceted protection from retaliation and revenge. The latter can best be achieved through legislation that includes compulsory practices for employers to include whistleblower protection measures within their own local working environment. That is, in Croatia, a safe reporting channel or process in which the whistleblower is protected from the potentially corrupt surrounds as well as from the media while and until investigations into the alleged violations are completed must be secured.

 

 

It’s a proven fact around the world that successful reports of violations have positive effects and outcomes in that they lead to new reports of violations and raise significantly the level of applied accountability. Hence, it’s not difficult to fathom that a government system open to fighting and reducing corruption also has a strong ally in the “whistleblower”.

 

Besides protecting the whistleblower, legislation and regulations addressing whistleblower protections can and do also serve as agents of perception change and are strong positively motivating forces that tell the citizens that the government expects from them to be conscientious, responsible and vigilant part of the society.
On a state level, the proposed bill on whistleblower protection was drafted in Croatia in late 2013 and was to go through the parliament procedure within a year. As far as my research into the matter shows nothing has occurred on this front so far. Although the ex-president of Croatia Ivo Josipovic is reported as having been one of the major initiators to have whistleblower protection regulated by legislation he did nothing apart from the lip service for the cause, which leads one to think there really was no decisive will to see it through. Thankfully, Croatia has a new president in Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic who is not about to wait around for the incompetent government in the parliament to see some serious advancement on the issue of whistleblower protection and/or giving the cause determined support. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. We are failing to protect whistle-blowers over here in America too, and it’s getting worse.

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    • While the US does have much better protection laws or measures, Robert, I do believe what you say that protection of whistleblowers must get stronger. In Croatia it’s atrocious and I believe that by forming a unit for it attached to President’s office will work towards changing perceptions and also get protection via legislation going.

      Liked by 1 person

    • threalamericro says:

      Ina, unfortunately whistleblower protection in the US is only worth the paper the laws and regulations are printed on.

      Take John Kiriakou for just one instance, not to mention William Binney, Thomas Drake, Jessyln Raydack and others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As you have just said here above, if whistleblowers are somehow better protected, they may become more corageous. Your reportage is very interesting and available throughout the world, so I think.

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  3. There has to be a need for the Government to want to fight corruption within itself too in order for this to succeed otherwise it becomes a process of cherrypicking what will generate the best publicity while doing least damage to the real machinery of the fraud.
    I wish the President much success in this and that the unit can actually make sweeping changes to institutionalised fraud.

    xxx Huge Hugs Ina xxx

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    • So true, David – corrupt individuals live “in each others pockets” so to speak and when you add into the mix the power of control inherited from the communist networking with what it essentially was a thieves’ paradise there is a big problem. In Croatia the government has been pussyfooting around doing anything serious about whistleblower protection legislation and one needs to be suspicious of that – perhaps they fear more than usual reports of corruption? Giving people a dignified avenue to report violations/corruption is so very important and I truly respect the decisive action on this the President of Croatia is making; she cannot pass legislation but she can act on raising the dignity and high value in the fight against corruption by establishing a whistleblower unit attached to her office. Marvelous 🙂

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  4. In this time of spin, distortion, misinformation and downright lies
    we need the truth more than ever.
    Another fine offering, Ina – Thank You.

    Big Hugs

    john

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  5. Michael Silovic says:

    Protection for whistle blowers is a good thing but it does not go far enough. First I would like to see a reward attached to it for the whistle blower upon conviction. Second I would like to see harsh prosecution which not ONLY include a prison sentence but that all property and monies be confiscated not only from those involved but from Family Members as well. Too often corrupt people serve a small amount of time in prison and still come out of prison wealthy because monies have been spread around to hide it amongst family and friends. If we are serious about fighting corruption then we need to act in the harshest possible terms.We can not do like America does even though they have a protection act because it is ineffective. We see everyday how those who have come out of serving a prison sentence still come out to wealth which is really shameful.The law should be that if you are convicted of fraud you lose everything you have plain and simple.The law should be black and white with no room for gray areas.

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    • Totally agree with the measures you propose, Michael. It’s a hard battle to fight corruption but if determination is part of the battle ten at least much would be cleared and deterrent would do its job in at least some cases if not all. Sadly, there will always be thieves around but at least the thieving ground should be tightened with “no mercy if caught”

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  6. Ina Vukic thank you for the article you are a truly inspiration and genuine it is healing to my heart I know I am not alone now I am even more confident to pursue my goal thanks to all of you so strong and courageous woman ..

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  7. Thank you for this post! I loved reading it all! 🙂

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  8. Well-written article. I hope your president achieves the goals she has set for herself.

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  9. We need whistleblowers to keep the arseholes at bay, especially those who use exploitation any means they think they can get away with. So whistleblowers deserve and need all the protection they can get.

    Like

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