Blowing corruption fight

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

FOR US to have a future without corruption, there must be protection for whistleblowers.

The good news is legislation doing exactly that is back in Parliament.

The bad news is legislation doing exactly that is back in Parliament.

MPs have played around with this issue for so long, few can take comfort in attempts to do so again.

First, there was the Whistleblower Protection Bill 2015.

Then, after stakeholder consultation, came the Whistleblower Protection Bill 2018, which failed to pass, as opposition legislators voted against it.

The third bite at the cherry, the Whistleblower Protection Bill 2019, lapsed when Parliament was dissolved the following year.

Yet hope springs eternal.

The Whistleblower Protection Bill 2022 was tabled in the House of Representatives two years ago and was subject to debate then.

Now, as the House approaches its fixed recess, the Government devoted the lion’s share of the sitting on June 14 to this issue.

No vote was taken. The Prime Minister’s winding-up was interrupted for the adjournment.

This brief history alone tells us something about our country’s culture of corruption and the seeming paralysis of the legislative organ.

Far too often, politicians deliver virtue-signalling, not concrete change, when it comes to taking steps to end bobol and to protecting citizens brave enough to speak up.

“This bill will be passed into law,” Dr Rowley said of the latest legislation, which, like its predecessors, requires a three-fifths majority. “If we have to walk alone, we will walk alone.”

While politicians spar and wax lyrical over reforms almost certainly destined to lapse or never see the light of day, the weary public continues to pay.

It is safe to say disillusionment has set in. Too many parts of the system are not functioning.

The Integrity Commission is not working as it should. Law enforcement is not growing any better at tackling white-collar crime (or crime generally).

The public procurement regime is experiencing teething pains. So too is the relatively new practice of plea-bargaining.

Meanwhile, the capacity to tackle securities offences is questionable.

Clearly, politicians believe the issue of fighting corruption remains a general-election issue.

For them, leaving reforms until the eve of polls might be smart politics: they may hope voters will give them a mandate to finish the job.

However, what use would it be to pass laws protecting whistleblowers when the crimes and wrongdoing they reveal cannot be effectively prosecuted?

Playing politics with serious issues like corruption in the long run will only cause the electorate to lose more faith in our systems.

Complacency will reign. Billion-dollar projects will continue to haemorrhage. Rot will set in.

That is not smart politics at all, but dereliction of duty.

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"Blowing corruption fight"

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