Opinion: Whistleblowers

POSTED: 05/15/12 11:41 AM

We all know why many wrongs in organizations are never made right: talking about these situations usually ends badly for the whistleblower. The name of Bas Roorda comes to mind, and we all know how that story ended.

In the Netherlands, Socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak has submitted a law to protect whistleblowers. A majority in parliament support the initiative-law. It is something to think about for our parliamentarians to do; they don’t have to re-invent the wheel for it either: Today has a copy of Van Raak’s piece of legislation and we’ll happily send it upon request to any MP who is interested on doing the right thing.

The initiative-law establishes a Whistleblowers-House at the office of the National Ombudsman. The House will investigate wrongdoings in the civil service but also in the private sector.

Van Raak says that the Whistleblowers-House is necessary because “there are too many people sitting at home with knowledge about situations they are afraid to talk about.”

The typical fate that befalls whistleblowers is, according to Van Raak: “You are fired, you lose your house and you are declared insane.”

Often the problems whistleblowers report are turned into labor conflicts, but Van Raak says that there is something else going on. Fred Spijkers reported faulty mines at the defense ministry, Ad Bos reported fraud in the construction sector, and Paul Schaap revealed an unsafe situation at one of our nuclear plants.

It is a civil duty to report these wrongs, Van Raak says, adding that the people who do this need protection. But currently they’re not getting any of that. “You end up in a trailer home or at best you get a bag of money to keep your mouth shut but that does not solve the problem. It should not be like that in a democracy.

Whistleblowers who take their plight to the future Whistleblowers-House get the opportunity to tell their story. After six weeks a decision is taken about an inquiry; the whistleblower is protected against dismissal and if need be the institute will help her or him find another job.

A whistleblower is not a quarrelmonger but somebody who acts in the interest of the community, Van Raak argues.

Hushing up things is part of the Dutch polder culture, Van Raak says. The Dutch make agreements and when something goes wrong it is a little bit everybody’s fault. Therefore, most people keep their mouth shut. Van Raak says that he does not want to use his law to point fingers to guilty parties but that he wants to solve problems.

It sounds like a piece of legislation St. Maarten could do with. Whistleblowing is not in our culture either, and we don’t even have polders. At best, people pose as concerned citizens and write letters to the editor hinting at certain situations without being specific.

Situations that are wrong in the Netherlands, are also wrong in St. Maarten. Usually they end up costing the tax payer (or the client, in case of a private company) money, because when wheels are greased somebody has to pay for the grease.

There are fifteen Members of Parliament. Is there maybe one – just one – interested in Van Raak’s whistleblower initiative law?

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