The ACTION coalition is calling on Parliament to refer the Whistleblower Protection Bill to a standing committee for proper discussion and consultations with the public.
The bill has three serious faults:
1. Section 52 (1d) allows protection to be removed if the disclosure questions government policy. This has wide-ranging implications:
For example a whistleblower who reports about waste in a government department could be seen as questioning budgetary policy.
More fundamentally Section 52 (1d) is unconstitutional – in that it violates the whistleblower’s rights to freedom of expression and thought…The Constitution also states that: “All citizens shall have the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government.”
2. Section 30 (5a) penalises an intentionally false disclosure with a fine of up to N$100 000 or a prison term of up to 20 years.
The inclusion of false reporting as a criminal offence (and the potential heavy sentences associated with such an offence) will have a chilling effect on would-be whistleblowers who may already be risking their livelihoods, friendships and other associations by coming forward with information.
3. The Whistleblower Protection Office needs to be more independent
Since the Whistleblower Protection Office will potentially be investigating government departments and public agencies, it is important that it operates at ‘arms-length’ from government.
You can read the full statement with further details on the problems with the bill here.
In light of the serious problems with this bill, Parliament should refer it to a standing committee to enable the public to give proper inputs, and to allow amendments to be made.
ACTION is a network of Namibian civil society organisations dedicated to Access to Information; the IPPR is a founding member.
Image: Daily Maverick