Prague Fog: Czech Officials Mum on Whistleblower Retaliation Case

Czech Whistleblower

The victimization of a long-serving public employee who reported evidence of corruption has solidified the Czech Republic’s reputation as one of Europe’s poorest-performing countries when it comes to whistleblower protection.

The employee was disciplined, recalled from an overseas post, threatened with dismissal, and subjected to psychological testing in retaliation for reporting suspicions of bribery. (The employee’s name and identifying information is being withheld.)

The employee, who has worked for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more than 20 years, was disciplined under highly suspicious circumstances within days after reporting the alleged bribery. The reason involved a petty bureaucratic snafu and not actual wrongdoing by the employee, a review of the case by the European Center for Whistleblower Rights has found.

The employee was retaliated against in apparent violation of Czech Regulation 145/2015, which was enacted in June 2015 to comply with the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention. The regulation on “Whistleblowing in the Public Sector” states that “a civil servant who reports suspicion of unlawful conduct…shall not be, in relation to this activity, harmed, disadvantaged or otherwise oppressed.”

The European Center has directly alerted key members of Czech Parliament and Foreign Affairs Minister Jakub Kulhánek about the situation. A letter of protest was sent to Kulhánek this month by the European Center, based in Berlin, and the National Whistleblower Center, based in Washington, DC.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Eva Davidova and Ministry staffer David Syka, who was involved with disciplining the employee, have not responded to several requests by the European Center to explain why the actions taken against the employee are not in violation of Regulation 145/2015.

This is yet another failure by Czech public officials to demonstrate a willingness to protect its own citizens who report crime and corruption – or to dedicate themselves to fighting corruption in general.

The Czech Republic is one of 13 EU countries with no standalone whistleblower protection law. The only known provision, Regulation 145/2015, was passed to appease the OECD and thus far has not worked in practice. Whistleblowers are not officially recognized in the Czech Republic, and there are no known cases of employees being protected from retaliation.

A draft whistleblower protection law developed this year to comply with new EU rules contains no mechanisms to protect employees from retaliation or compensate them for damages. The proposal does not even define damages, and the measure would require employees in some cases to prove that making a disclosure was “necessary.”

In September and October 2015, Czech public agencies spent tens of thousands of euros on two major conferences on whistleblower protection at lavish locations in Prague. Pledges by many high-ranking officials to enact a whistleblower law were not kept.

The Czech Republic was the second-to-last European country to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption, and it has been openly criticized by the OECD for taking nearly 20 years before prosecuting its first foreign bribery case under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

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