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Governmental actions in the state of emergency
The newly proposed Anti-Corruption Whistleblower Protection Act should soon enter the interdepartmental round of comments. In response to a recommendation of the Rekonstrukce státu (Reconstruction of the State) initiative, the Justice Minister Marie Benešová promised to speed up the implementation of the European regulation. The new law should protect and support public administration staff who encounter a wrongdoing in the workplace and are willing to blow the whistle. This anti-corruption measure could significantly improve protection of the public interest and prevent uneconomic behaviour.
Speeding up the adoption of the law that would protect whistleblowers reporting corruption was recommended to the government by Rekonstrukce státu in its Nezhasínat! (Don’t Switch Off the Lights!) project in early May. In order to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the state is spending hundreds of billions of public money and quickly buys protective equipment. That is why it’s now particularly important to strengthen transparency and prevent corruption in public administration.
We made an appeal to the government to improve whistleblower protection as soon as possible and provide a tool that would make it possible to report corruption behaviour securely. “There is no Czech law that would comprehensively address whistleblower protection. Potential whistleblowers currently have no way to report a wrongdoing that would provide a guarantee of anonymity and prevent the risk of them being identified and retaliated against. That’s one of the reasons why employees as well civil servants blow the whistle only very rarely,” explains Marek Zelenka from the NGO Oživení who is Rekonstrukce státu’s expert on this issue.
Minister Benešová promised to speed up discussion
In response to our recommendation, the Justice Minister Marie Benešová promised that she would try to submit the whistleblower protection bill as soon as possible. “I agree that a regulation on the protection of whistleblowers who report corruption and other wrongdoings can save public money, prevent damage to the environment and protect other public interests. This regulation must therefore become part of the Czech legal environment as soon as possible,” she said in a letter addressed to Rekonstrukce státu.
Following a European regulation, the government is obliged to implement whistleblower protection in Czech law by December 2021. So far, the process has been far from smooth. Even though the legislative plan expects the bill to be submitted by September this year. “Given the expected length of the legislative process in the Parliament and the necessity of this legal regulation, I can promise that I will attempt to submit the bill earlier,” says the minister. She also added that in the coming weeks, the draft bill should be sent to the other ministries for comments.
“We appreciate that Minister Benešová considers the whistleblower protection act a priority. Anti-corruption organisations will be ensuring that the state establishes a trustworthy body that whistleblowers will be able to turn to and that will effectively protect them against retaliation,” says Věnek Bonuš, an analyst at Rekonstrukce státu, in response to the letter.
You can read the full letter by Justice Minister Marie Benešová here:
Dear Rekonstrukce státu,
With authorization from the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babiš, let me respond to the “Recommendation of Rekonstrukce státu on the strengthening of protection for anti-corruption whistleblowers and the deployment of an electronic tool for safely reporting corruption” document that you sent to the Prime Minister and myself in two separate e-mails on 6 May 2020.
I agree that a regulation on the protection of whistleblowers who report corruption and other wrongdoings can save public money, prevent damage to the environment and protect other public interests. This regulation must therefore become part of the Czech legal environment as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Justice is currently finishing a proposed draft of a Whistleblower Protection Act which together with the accompanying amendment act transposes the directive of the European Parliament and Council (EU) on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law. Let me note that the government’s 2020 Legislative Plan expects both proposals to be submitted to the government by September 2020. Given the expected length of the legislative process in the Parliament and the necessity of this legal regulation, I can promise that I will attempt to submit the bill earlier. You can therefore expect both proposals to enter the interdepartmental round of comments in the upcoming weeks.
Let me also assure you that both proposals will fully meet all the requirements of the corresponding directive. This includes in particular e.g. the mandatory implementation of internal whistleblowing systems for selected employers. The currently existing internal whistleblower systems in the public (as well as private) sector will then have to be adapted to comply with the requirements of the law (and therefore the directive). In this context, I wish to thank you for the offer of utilising the free GlobaLeaks tool; I will discuss this with experts from IT and other fields, particularly with regard to any potential security risks.
Regards, Marie Benešová
In the NEZHASÍNAT! project, we offer to politicians recommendations on how to tackle the crisis in compliance with the law and how to kickstart our economy effectively and transparently. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and a restart of the economy shouldn’t be done with the lights out. You can find all the recommendations submitted to the government by Rekonstrukce státu here.