Whistleblowers: Federal officials fear retaliation

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Whistleblowers: Whistleblowers ;federal officials fear reprisals

Federal employees doubt the effectiveness of the whistleblower system.

Federal workers are increasingly disillusioned, skeptical and disillusioned with the whistleblower, according to a recent survey. idea of ​​reporting wrongdoing in public service.

This pessimism is now more “palpable and widespread” than it was before the pandemic. As for public servants, they have become more likely to fear reprisals for whistleblowing.

Last March, the Canadian research firm Phoenix Strategic Perspectives submitted a report to the Office of the Commissioner at the #x27;public sector integrity, which investigates serious abuses in the federal government.

Commissioner Joe Friday says there is a maze of oversight mechanisms available to public servants and it can be daunting or exhausting to know where to file a complaint.

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday

Mr. Friday believes officials have felt more isolated and disconnected since the pandemic, making it harder to feel confident about coming forward, let alone being able to gather the kind of documentation whistleblowers need. .

Public Service Alliance of Canada President Chris Aylward says the protections in place for whistleblowers are inadequate and the regime needs to be strengthened.

“It's disheartening to see that federal workers have become more disenchanted with whistleblowing and reporting wrongdoing in the public service, but it's not surprising.

— Chris Aylward, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada

It can be intimidating to come forward as a whistleblower. Our members are right to fear reprisals, he added. Strict measures are needed to protect workers who speak out. Instead, whistleblowers are subject to too many conditions that unnecessarily restrict disclosure.

President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward believes that measures must be adopted to protect public servants who become whistleblowers.

Written following From nine focus group sessions held in March, the report found that workers feared a wide variety of hypothetical repercussions, many of which were based on concerns that confidentiality could be compromised.

Among these fears are the potential negative impact on the physical or psychological well-being of the whistleblower, the lack of support, the fear of having a reputation as a troublemaker, the reduction of trust between colleagues, the creation of divisions in work teams and “damage to the image or reputation of the public service”.

Some said they feared their careers would be derailed i.e. they would receive poor reviews, be removed from certain projects, are given less challenging tasks or their workload increases.

Compared to a similar report in 2015, public servants were more likely to say that their attitude to regard to whistleblowing had changed over time. This time around, they described themselves as having become “less naïve, more pessimistic, more disillusioned, more jaded, less enthusiastic and more disillusioned”.

Workers tend to see whistleblowing as a good thing and describe whistleblowers as brave people who need encouragement and support. But they stressed that potential whistleblowers “must understand what they are being called upon to face”: it is a “long, arduous, stressful and uncertain process as to the outcome”.

Participants reported receiving better awareness and education about the process of reporting wrongdoing, but they don't trust it.

“Many felt that such changes amounted to "ostentatious virtue" or a "frontage", as opposed to genuine cultural change.

— Report excerpt

Slightly more than half of focus group participants were unaware of the existence of the office that originally commissioned this research.

That's not necessarily such a bad thing, believes Commissioner Friday.

I think if every civil servant woke up every morning and the first thing that came to him #x27;mind was to ask: "How can I bring wrongdoing to light?, it might suggest that there is more wrongdoing than we think, says- it.

Yet it is evident that many do not know how the whistleblowing process works or do not trust it if they do. “Clearly more needs to be done,” Friday stresses.

It can be frustrating to push for culture change on the fringes of an organization of 300,000 people, he says, and with no influence or authority over the service-specific internal procedures that largely govern the whistleblower system.

Yet his 35-person office has reached thousands of public servants with activities and presentations during the pandemic in an attempt to demystify this process.

In the seven years that he served as commissioner – and during his tenure as deputy commissioner and legal adviser before that – Mr. Friday claims that he never made a presentation that did not result in a follow-up with someone in the audience who was considering reporting wrongdoing.

“We are talking about something very personal, very often something that someone hasn't told anyone yet.

—Joe Friday, Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

Mr. Friday said he laments that the pandemic has reduced the ability to have face-to-face conversations.

He says he is doing his best to continue his outreach efforts.

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