PEOPLE who prevent whistle blowers from making disclosures will face stiff penalties, including fines and imprisonment. This is outlined in the Whistle blower Protection Bill 2018 which was laid in the House of Representatives on April 9. The objective of the legislation is to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sector. The bill is also designed to protect people making these disclosures from detrimental action, to regulate the receiving, investigating or otherwise dealing with disclosures of improper conduct. The bill’s definition of improper conduct includes any criminal offence; an act of reprisal against a whistle blower or someone related to a whistle blower and unfair discrimination on the basis of gender, race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinion.
According to Clause 23 (1) of the bill, an offence is created when a person prevents another person from making an internal or external disclosure; is an employer who subjects another person to detrimental action as a result of that person making a protected disclosure; induces another person by threats or promises or otherwise to break this law or makes a disclosure under this law, knowing that disclosure to be reckless and misleading.
Clause 23 (2) indicates that a person who commits an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $15,000 and two years in jail. On conviction on indictment, such a person is liable to a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for ten years. Under Clause 24 of the bill, disclosures are secret and confidential. This includes the identity of the person making the disclosure and any documentation which forms part of the disclosure. Anyone who breaches this clause is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $600,000 and two years in jail.
A person who obstructs a whistle blower reporting officer or officer of a whistle blowing reports unit in the course of their duties, is subject to a fine of $15,000 and two years imprisonment.