Legal protection for whistleblowers proposed in Dubai

Protection clause in draft code of Corporate Governance for Developers by Dubai Land Department

A protection clause for whistleblowers has been introduced in the draft code of Corporate Governance for Developers by the Dubai Land Department, Emirates24|7 can reveal.

As per the draft, the Audit Committee, which will be an integral part of the risk management process, will ensure a framework is in place by way of a policy (and procedures) which protects from discharge or discrimination against a whistle-blower, who may otherwise be subject to retaliation by the employers or fellow employees within the organisation to which they belong.

Defined by the draft code, whistleblowing is the action of person, usually an employee (the whistle-blower), in disclosing evidence of wrongdoing including fraud, financial irregularity, serious mal-administration arising from the deliberate commission of improper conduct, unethical activities, which may be of a criminal nature and dangerous acts or omissions, which create a risk to health, safety or the environment within the organisation to which they belong.

Although cases of whistleblowers are rarely reported in the Middle East, government entities and large private companies do have internal compliance programmes.

However, inclusion of a protective framework for whistleblowers may encourage employees in development companies to report wrongdoing to the authorities.

Over a dozen countries have now adopted comprehensive whistleblower protection laws which create mechanisms for reporting, investigate  reports, and provide legal protections to the people who informed them.

Whistle-blowing, the world over

Over 50 countries have adopted more limited protections as part of their anti-corruption, freedom of information, or employment laws.

Last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved nearly $50,000 reward for a whistleblower, who turned over documents and other information to help stop a multi-million dollar fraud, the first award in a new programme to encourage people to inform regulators about securities fraud.

Before the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law, the SEC could only reward people who provided information on insider-trading cases. The 2010 law allows regulators to reward people whose information leads to an SEC enforcement action with more than $1 million in sanctions.

Many companies, including Google and JPMorgan Chase, had complained that the expanded whistleblower incentives could undermine internal compliance programmes because they do not require people to first report problems to the company.

As per the UK-based investigative group Exaro, since 2008 the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has paid over GBP 1 million in bounties to individuals who provide information and data which leads to the recovery of previously unpaid taxes.

The information was obtained in a set of HMRC documents, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act, reported taxinfonews.com.

In 2011, the HMRC received approximately 70 000 individual tip-offs on a public hotline, and paid out GBP 374 000 to whistleblowers. The payments ranged in value from GBP 50 to several thousand pounds, with the payout being based on the amount of taxes recovered from the tip off.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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