LAWMAKERS have been urged to come up with a whistleblower law in order to promote public disclosure of corporate malpractices in State-owned enterprises (SOEs).

BY VENERANDA LANGA

This was said in a recently published survey by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (Sapst) and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) on SOEs performance and compliance survey.

The survey used a sample of 31 SOEs in the country and collected data using in-depth interviews.

“The research found that 33,3% of the entities had a whistleblower policy, while the remaining 66,7% did not have any,” the report read.

“Whistleblowing raises awareness on activities that are detrimental to the performance of an organisation. It could be reporting on a case of theft, or it could be a report on an incident of grand corruption, it is part of promoting good corporate governance by organisations,” it said.

Sapst and Zimcodd said whistleblowing was a major aspect of the principles under the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act which have a provision for the development and implementation of a whistleblower policy by the public entities.

They said in their survey they found that it was the larger companies that tended to have some whistleblowing platforms.

“For example, organisations such as Zimra and Zesa have some hotlines through which they encourage any member of the public to report, for example, on corruption or theft of copper wires. An increase in the practice of whistleblowing concepts could, therefore, lead to enhanced accountability and transparency by office bearers in particular, and the public at large.”

The researchers said for corporate governance to be effective, it should be supported by a comprehensive and effective whistleblowing framework, but the challenges in Zimbabwe were that whistleblowing is not legislated and is left at the level of SOEs.

“Such a framework would have facilitated exposure of misconduct and corporate malpractices. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development in 2015 underlined that the protection of whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing in the public sector was recognised as the core of the public sector integrity framework.”

They said it was essential to safeguard public interest and to promote a culture of public accountability.

“In Zimbabwe whistleblowers do not have protection, with the situation compounded by the Official Secrets Act (Chapter 11:09) which prevented employees of SOEs from disclosing information about activities happening inside their enterprises. This made the public disclosure of corporate malpractices by potential whistleblowers in SOEs a risky endeavour,” the survey said.