The hottest topic in the world of whistleblowing today is monetary rewards. Long unjustly dismissed by policy-makers as perverting the noble cause of citizen crime-fighting, financial incentives are now being offered in more than 10 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.
These new reward programs are achieving their goal of encouraging more people to come forward with high-quality evidence of crime and corruption. As news of these successes spreads, many more programs are in the works.
The UK Revenue and Customs office announced last month that tax evasion whistleblowers were paid £473,000 ($635,000) from April 2019 to March 2020. This is a 63 percent jump over the previous year, when the agency paid £290,250 ($390,000). The agency did not release any details on these cases, but the accounting firm BDO said the increase suggests more people are reporting tax crimes. The rewards are based on the amount of taxes recovered, the value of loss prevented, and time saved in working cases.
In Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission said last month it had awarded C$585,000 ($450,000) to three people who passed on “timely, specific and credible information” that helped the agency recover public funds. Importantly, the agency said all three whistleblowers provided “extensive and ongoing assistance” by participating in many meetings and supplying additional evidence. One person provided a technical analysis of securities violations that the agency said, “would have otherwise been difficult to detect.”
The first of its kind in Canada, Ontario’s Whistleblower Program has paid whistleblowers more than C$8.6 million ($6.6 million) since it began in July 2016. The agency pays up to C$5 million ($3.9 million) for information on misconduct including illegal insider trading or tipping, abusive short selling, and corporate disclosure violations.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta last month ordered rewards for tax fraud whistleblowers to be more than doubled to Sh5 million ($45,000). “This will improve the trust and confidence of taxpayers in the tax system,” Kenyatta said, “as well as allowing the State to dramatically reduce revenue leakage and recover taxes that had been lost.” The Kenya Revenue Authority’s iWhistle portal enables people to report tax crimes anonymously. Kenyatta announced the new system at Kenya’s Taxpayers Day celebration on Nov. 6 in Nairobi.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said last month he would pay up to P100,000 ($2,100) to people who report corrupt officials and improper government projects. “I am asking all of you. Those who do not have permanent jobs, particularly those hired under the casual scheme, all you have to do is to let me know and I will have a prize for you,” Duterte said in a public speech. “If you have a big, big syndicate, or a ghost project that belongs to the director, just whisper it to me, anybody. I will keep your identity secret until I reach my grave.”
Peru announced in March what reportedly is Latin America’s first program aimed at fighting cartels by rewarding people who report anti-competitive behavior. The agency Indecopi said it will pay up to PEN 400,000 ($130,000) to people whose assistance proves effective and “especially valuable.” An agency official said the program will “send across the message that it will become more and more costly to participate in a cartel in Peru.”
Last December Brazil’s House of Representatives approved Justice Minister Sergio Moro’s anti-crime package, which included offering whistleblower rewards of up to 5 percent of public funds recovered. The proposal also includes anti-retaliation and confidentiality protection. At the last report, the measure was still under consideration.
Reward programs are in place in many other countries, including Lithuania, Malaysia, Montenegro, Ukraine and Vietnam.
In August a campaign to urge all European countries to set up reward programs was launched by the National Whistleblower Center, the whistleblower right law firm of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, Whistleblowing International, and the European Center for Whistleblower Rights