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Graft whistle-blowers' hotline
Publication Date : 18-07-2012
It is encouraging to know that text messages sent to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)'s 1575 whistle-blowing hotline will remain anonymous and confidential because credibility and independence are crucial to the effectiveness of such a system.
There is something wrong though, with the standard operating procedures. Informants have to produce preliminary evidence - documents, pictures or video recordings - and provide detailed information like who did what, when, where, why and how.
Such a hotline should let the general public report any suspected corruption and suspicious behaviour of public officials without the need to play Sherlock Holmes, perhaps even at great personal risk.
By welcoming such broad information the KPK could generate early warnings on the conduct of public officials.
There is no need for the KPK to follow up every scrap of information but reports of suspicious behaviour or the ostentatiously luxurious lifestyles of public officials must surely serve some useful purpose.
The KPK hotline could, for example, support the whistle-blowing system at other government agencies such as the tax directorate general which seemed to have been less effective because most tax officials hesitate or do not feel comfortable reporting on their colleagues either because they had done such things or they did not believe their senior officials would act to follow up on their reports.
Government officials may find it psychologically easier and more comfortable to report on the suspected acts of corruption or suspicious behaviour of their colleagues to the KPK hotline rather than to their own internal whistle-blowing hotline.
For example, one of the world's largest oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell, though already running a strong internal-control unit, also established what it calls Shell Global Helpline and put on its website manuals on its operational mechanism, its principles and how all its stakeholders (suppliers, governments, employees, shareholders and general public) around the world could file anonymous reports on the conduct of Shell employees.
Significantly, not Shell, but an independent agency operates the hotline.
There is certainly a risk that the hotline would initially be flooded by false reports or information given in malicious intent to attack particular officials, but such a risk is still worth taking, because corruption has been so systemic across the whole government that the future of the whole bureaucratic reform is now at stake.
Moreover, we don't think the KPK officials in charge of managing the whistle-blowing hotline could so easily be fooled by such false reports.
Most important though is that the identity of the tipsters should be protected and the KPK or the government agencies concerned should act quickly and firmly to follow up or check out reports of wrongdoing, unethical behaviour or excessively luxury lifestyles of public officials.
Tipsters should also be protected from retaliation and any legal consequences even if their reports are not accurate or false as long as they make the reports in good faith without malicious intent.