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Senate to debate whistle-blower legislation

Inside Parliament

With Alicia Dunkley

Sunday, June 13, 2010    

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DEBATE on legislation to protect persons who squeal on public officials on the wrong side of the law is slated to begin Friday in the Senate.

The Bill, formally called the Protected Disclosure Act (Whistle-blower Law) 2010 was tabled in the Senate on Friday by Attorney General and Justice Minister Senator Dorothy Lightbourne.

Cabinet issued drafting instructions for the legislation last March.

The provision was one of several which the ruling Jamaica Labour Party Government pledged to implement in its 2007 manifesto leading up to the elections which it won that year.

The private sector will not be excluded from this piece of legislation, which aims to capture all forms of wrongdoing that can be reported within an organisation. It will also seek to address incidents of gross mismanagement or misconduct that has occurred, or is about to occur. The provision will also allow for disclosure to be made if someone within an organisation has a legal obligation to act or carry out an activity and does not do so. The definition of employee under the legislation has been widened to cover independent contractors, and also takes into account voluntary, religious, and charitable organisations.

The legislation also mandates organisations to designate a person to whom corrupt act or allegations of mismanagement can be reported. That individual is expected to investigate and address the situation.

Further provision is made to ensure that persons requiring protection, after giving intelligence, can be placed under the existing witness protection programme, and that workers are not victimised for spilling the beans. In fact, the Bill makes it an offence for any person to intimidate an employee who makes or intends to make a disclosure. However, the legislation provides no shield for individuals who breach client/lawyer, or doctor/patient confidentiality. It will also not protect persons who commit offences under the Official Secrets Act, or Corruption Prevention Act, by making disclosures.

Persons to whom disclosures may be made by individuals in possession of critical information include: The Auditor General, the Bank of Jamaica, the Bureau of Standards, the Children’s Advocate, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, the Commissioner of Police, the Contractor General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Political Ombudsman and the Public Defender among others.

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