By Bernard A. Kargbo Public Education Officer, ACC
An incentive is something that encourages or induces someone to do something. In a broader spectrum, paying of incentives is performance-based; in that it is a compensation that rewards a person for meeting set goals and objectives of an organisation. This brief description is in tandem with the provisions in Section 81 (3) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as Amended in 2019, which gives the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) the mandate to pay 10 percent to whistleblowers who provide information that leads to conviction or recovery.
The recent re-introduction of the whistleblower reward scheme by the ACC will in no doubt be very productive, as human nature makes people to always respond to incentives. According to a public notice issued by the Commission dated 3rd March, 2022, “any member of the public who provides cogent and useful information to the Commission that leads to the successful prosecution and conviction of, and/or recovery of funds or property from a corrupt person (including public officers) will be rewarded10 percent of the total amount or value of the 10 percent withheld by the Commission for its operations as per law.”
Whistleblowers are people that are willing to report wrongdoings for the greater good of the public. They perform an important role which helps to develop ethical practices, support transparency and fair play in institutions. They benefit the citizens and the government alike, something that nurtures a culture of honesty and integrity in public service.
Whistleblowers are considered to be one of many sources that we can rely on for worthy and credible information on issues bordering on corruption and corrupt activities, based on the fact that, for most times, whistleblowers are members of the entities embroiled in the wrongdoing or act of corruption.
Whistleblower reward programs aim to increase the quantity of disclosure about instances of corruption, fraud, misconduct and other corruption-related activities. Some commentaries suggest that these schemes are hugely successful as they incentivize individuals or groups to come forward. They also counter-balance the possible dangers of blowing the whistle. Whistle-blowing is seen as a very effective tool to combat fraud; it is unique in that it gives people in public offices, and also external stakeholders, the opportunity to report if they see something they suspect to be corruption-related or a violation of ethical principles.
In some jurisdictions, whistleblower reward programs provide financial incentives for people who report wrongdoings. Such schemes aim to counteract the disincentives caused by personal risks facing whistleblowers. Some countries, such as the UK, Australia etc., have strong whistleblower protection and incentive legislation.
The Anti-Corruption Commission has deemed it prudent to re-introduce the reward scheme for whistleblowers in a bid to enhance citizens’ participation in combating graft in Sierra Leone. It is expected that this will also increase the number of reported cases of corruption and the ability to incentivize hesitant whistleblowers. When people are sure to be rewarded for standing up against corruption, they will certainly serve as watchdogs in their institutions and communities to expose corrupt practices.
In the United States, for instance, increased whistleblower incentives have led to an unprecedented number of investigations and greater recoveries in cases of bribery, corruption and money laundering, as highlighted in Stephen M. Kohn’s book, ‘The Importance of Whistleblower Rewards in Combating International Corruption’ published in 2014.
The ‘bigger picture’ or the greater good to society is one very important thing to consider when contemplating on blowing the whistle. Whilst it can be a daunting process to enter into, the greater good of the general public must receive priority. In essence, the benefits must outweigh the risks, and it is the duty of all workers to remain vigilant against wrongdoing and act when it is time to do so.
Also of importance is for all employees to be familiar with both whistleblower rights and responsibilities. It is the duty of every institution to promote a whistle-blowing culture by creating and popularizing a reward scheme and policy.