Protection under the Protected Disclosures Act is afforded through remedies for any occupational detriment suffered as a result of such a disclosure. This may involve compensation, or other remedial action.
The application of the Protected Disclosures Act is limited to occupational detriment and employment relationships. It excludes commercial relationships such as parties to a procurement agreement. This is a serious flaw, given the extent of procurement corruption in the country.
Furthermore, these disclosures are only protected if made to the public protector or the auditor-general. Other competent bodies that can investigate and prosecute corruption, such as the police or the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), are excluded.
Both parts of witness protection focus on the physical safety of whistleblowers or protecting their current employment conditions. No provision is made for future job security, or financial, emotional, legal or other support for whistleblowers and their families.
My research revealed that whistleblower protection must be improved to encourage people to report corruption. Parliament should amend the definition of protected disclosures to include those made by people who are not in an employment relationship with an accused. That would include protection for parties to a commercial relationship, such as a procurement contract or tender award.
Witness protection must also be extended to include people who could potentially be in danger because they witnessed corruption as well as their families and close associates. This would encourage even more people to expose corruption.
Doing so would give anti-corruption authorities such as the NPA and the public protector greater access to the evidence needed to combat corruption.
SA could also benefit from having a dedicated institution to oversee whistleblower protection. Such an institution should further provide support services, such as legal representation and advice, to current and potential whistleblowers.
It should also provide psychological and social support services for whistleblowers and their connections. This will help ensure that witnesses are able to participate in the entire investigation and prosecution of corruption. — This article was originally published in The Conversation
Dr Johandri Wright, Postdoctoral Fellow, North-West University