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The protection of whistleblowers receives insufficient attention



Published september 28, 2023

Since the entry into force of the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers in 2019, more than 170 individuals have been recognized whistleblowers. However, a study conducted by Transparency International Lithuania indicates that insufficient attention is given to ensuring the confidentiality of individuals and fostering a culture of openness within organizations to ensure effective protection of whistleblowers.

According to the participants of the study, protection of whistleblowers from adverse actions is one of the biggest challenges currently faced in implementing the law. To address this, regular dialogue between institutions implementing the law, sharing information and experiences is essential. Adequate human and financial resources are also necessary for the institutions responsible for implementing the law.

Although more and more institutions have established internal reporting channels, organizational culture does not encourage employees to report possible wrongdoings. There is still a prevalent belief that individuals who report potential misconduct by their colleagues or superiors are “snitches” (lt. skundikai). It relates to the lack of support and engagement from leaders in creating an organizational culture favourable to feedback.

According to experts who participated in the study, when conducting internal investigations based on reports received through internal channels for providing information on wrongdoings, the confidentiality of individuals is often not ensured. Factors influencing this may include a small number of employees in institutions, a lack of competence among those managing internal channels. According to the experts, specialists also lack knowledge of how to properly respond when receiving information through internal channels for providing information on wrongdoings.

There is a disagreement on how to measure the success of implementation of the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers. Participants in the study mostly identified the evaluation of whistleblower experiences, the percentage of reports received and acted upon, the amount of uncovered damage to the state, and the amount of rewards and compensations provided as possible indicators of success.

“Whistleblower protection is an integral part of the conversation about the resilience of the state. Legislation and integral procedures alone are not enough – a cultural shift is necessary. Therefore, it is especially important for the leaders of institutions to take more responsibility in encouraging employees to openly ask questions and report observed breaches. Additionally, I would very much like us to agree on specific and measurable indicators of success in order to assess the effectiveness of the Law.” – said Ingrida Kalinauskienė, the CEO of Transparency International Lithuania.

Considering the main risks identified by the experts, Transparency International Lithuania suggests:

  • For the competent authority to systematically collect and publish primary and secondary data that would allow measuring and comparing the real implementation of the Law on the Whistleblower Protection. Additionally, guidelines should be developed in collaboration with partners to promote good practices in whistleblower protection in public and private sector institutions.
  • For the public and private sector institutions to create an organizational culture conducive to feedback – clearly and publicly declare internal values of the institution, promote mutual trust, establish internal whistleblower protection procedures.
  • For other responsible institutions to promote purposeful communication and collaboration among institutions and specialists responsible for implementing the Law on the Whistleblower Protection. Also, to ensure adequate capacities (e.g. human resources, financial resources, etc.) of the institutions responsible for implementing the Law.

The Law on the Whistleblower Protection came into effect on January 1, 2019, with amendments to the law in accordance with the EU directive on whistleblower protection taking effect on February 15, 2022.

In preparing this study, Transparency International Lithuania conducted 16 semi-qualitative interviews in February-April 2023 with the representatives of institutions implementing the Law, such as Prosecutor General’s Office, State Guaranteed Legal Aid Service, Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania, courts, state-owned and private enterprises.

More information on the study and recommendations in Lithuanian can be found here.

More information:

Ingrida Kalinauskienė, ingrida@transparency.lt, +370 5 212 69 51

The initiative is part of the Active Citizens Fund, financed by the EEA Financial Mechanism.

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