A public health official in Slovakia has made history by becoming the first person in continental Europe to receive a monetary prize for being a whistleblower.
Dr. Rastislav Šaling reportedly received a €3,000 reward from Slovakia’s Justice Department after he revealed that health records were being falsified. While working at the Regional Public Health Office in Poprad, Šaling learned that hygiene inspections of new businesses had been faked. Official documents clearing that businesses to open contained phony signatures and stamps.
Šaling told his managers that the businesses actually had never been inspected. Ignored, he alerted several authorities including the Health Ministry and Slovakia’s official anti-corruption hotline. “Šaling made no secret of his suspicion that in these cases there may have been organized, long-term and systematic activities,” the newspaper Korzár reported. Šaling’s disclosures, which began in 2016, led to the conviction last year of a public health official for abusing his office. The official was sentenced to probation.
“I would not change anything I did and how I did it. I consider this to be such a landmark – not only for myself, but also for society and for people who have similar mindsets and principles,” Šaling told the newspaper Noviny. “I believe that the [anti-corruption] process will be kick-started. Igniting others for such a cause is necessary.”
Šaling received the €3,000 reward under Slovakia’s whistleblower protection law that was passed in 2014 and strengthened in 2019.
“We definitely think it’s a good thing. Our hope is that it will motivate others to come forward and be recognized. We see this only as a positive thing,” Zuzana Grochalová of Transparency International Slovakia told Whistleblower Network News.
Slovakia’s whistleblower law complies with most European and international standards, including giving people the right to inspect investigation files and submit additional information, which Noviny reported Šaling did in his case.
Moreover, the 2019 amendments established the Office for the Protection of Whistleblowers, the first of its kind in the European Union. Uniquely, the office has the legal authority to block an employer from taking any action against an employee unless it can prove the action was in no way connected with the employee having blown the whistle. The office is the first in the EU – and one of the very few in the world – with the independent authority to block whistleblower retaliation. Employees in Slovakia need not go to court to save their jobs. The office also will be in charge of issuing whistleblower rewards.
This past February, Slovakia’s Parliament chose law professor Zuzana Dlugošová to be the whistleblower office’s first director.