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Jakarta Post

Bounties for whistleblowers

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, October 18, 2018   /   08:20 am
Bounties for whistleblowers Unwavering support: Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Agus Rahardjo (left) accepts a token of support from a coalition of civil society groups that initiated a petition against the inclusion of articles on corruption in the Criminal Code (KUHP) bill. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Tips from the general public have greatly helped the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) mount sting operations to uncover graft. Providing rewards to whistleblowers backed by laws have worked remarkably well in combating corruption and business fraud in many countries, notably the United States and Britain.

Hence, we fully support the recent government regulation that awards a certificate of merit and a maximum Rp 200 million (US$13,135) reward to whistleblowers whose tips help law enforcement agencies uncover and prosecute corruption. The regulation allows potential informants to submit either a written or oral report on possible graft and if their report is deemed valid, the informant will receive legal protection from the government.

A robust and effective whistleblower reward program can play a central role in any anticorruption effort. The beauty of the program is that the reward is awarded directly from the monies recovered or the assets seized from corruptors, at no expense to taxpayers.

Whistleblower reward programs work, and they work remarkably well. Where such programs have been implemented properly with attendant laws, they have become the cornerstone of effective anticorruption efforts. We should support and nurture a strong whistleblower reward program, especially since corruption and fraud have become increasingly complex of late.

A survey by the American Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, a global group of financial sleuths, has concluded that consistent tips are the leading means for unearthing wrongdoing, well beyond audits or regulatory reviews. The number of tips received by the “Whistleblower Office” of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has risen steadily to nearly 4,000 a year since it opened in 2011. 

Protecting whistleblowers and enforcing the law do matter because whistleblowers may face defamation suits. When people refrain from reporting wrongdoing, their primary reason is often not because they fear retaliation, but that their tip will lead to nothing. Many often look at whistleblowers as being motivated by revenge or greed, but studies consistently show that most are driven by conscientiousness to right a wrong.

But the KPK’s experience has shown that its seriousness and consistence in following up graft tips has led not only to more tips, but also to higher-quality tips that have been of tremendous help in fulfilling its antigraft duties. 

The potential benefit of a whistleblower program is that insiders could regularly provide law enforcement authorities with early and invaluable assistance in identifying the scope, perpetrators, participants, victims and ill-gotten gains from corrupt schemes.

Countries that have adopted a whistleblower program have found that access to information and monetary rewards have a significant impact on the probability that a stakeholder will become a whistleblower.

Such a program could overcome the trepidation over possible retaliation and induce high-quality informants to come forward to significantly propel Indonesia’s drive to eradicate corruption.