Whistle Blowers

The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will not be forgotten for many years to come. Initially, comment was generated in the media about the refereeing of the Springboks’ opening match against the All Blacks by the French official Jerome Garces, and perhaps for good reason. He was forgiven later, as the referee for the Springboks’ victory in the final.

The use of a whistle was the practice of law enforcement officials in the 19th century, them doing so to alert the public, or fellow police, to a bad situation such as the commission of a crime. At the time, football referees used a white flag to signal a stop to the game due to foul play, but soon imported the use of whistles. In the same way, then, when spotting a breach of the rules, the referee would blow his whistle.

However, rugby is a game and the World Cup is staged for our entertainment, but crime and fraud are neither. This is where ‘whistle-blowing’ has come to mean something else. Basically, it is when somebody informs the authorities of criminal conduct. Some time ago, a person doing this was called a ‘snitch’, or worse, but seeing that US$3.7 trillion is lost to fraud every year, yet 43% of fraud is detected through whistle-blowing,1 it is considered in a somewhat more positive light these days.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2000 is directed at preventing recrimination and reprisal against citizens who, particularly in the work place, take criminal conduct seriously enough to report it to the authorities. Basically, the Act provides a framework – a system, in other words – for employees and workers to report criminal conduct without fear of ‘punishment’. If the disclosure follows the system set up by the Act, it is called a ‘protected disclosure’ and then no steps may be taken against the whistle blower, directly or even indirectly, in the workplace.

The Act records that one of its premises is that ‘every employer, employee and worker has a responsibility to disclose criminal and other irregular conduct in the workplace’, whilst one of its aims is to ‘promote the eradication of criminal and other irregular conduct in organs of state and private bodies’.

  1. It is a crime for any employee or worker intentionally to disclose false information if:
    • he knows that it is false (or he should have known that it is false); and
    • he has the intention to cause harm to the person or firm involved, and

    that person or firm does suffer harm as a result.2

  1. Statistics obtained from

  2. Section 9B of the Act.