By Jean Christou
A bill to enable and protect whistleblowers is to be submitted to the cabinet shortly, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday.
Addressing a conference in Nicosia organised by Transparency International Cyprus titled ‘Speak Up’, Nicolaou , said it was important to empower civil society to help fight corruption.
“The idea of the whistleblower can become a catalyst for this but so far Cyprus has no specific legislation to protect complainants when it comes to transgressions either in the public or private sectors,” the minister said.
“To this end, the ministry of justice and public order has prepared a bill. It will be called the Reporting Acts of Corruption Law, which will be submitted shortly for approval to the cabinet.”
He said the bill provided for the protection of the complainant as long as the person is not using it for personal gain. They must also provide the attorney-general, or where appropriate the competent authority, with information they reasonably believe reveals a corruption offence, or one they believe is about to be committed.
People also need to know the exact procedures to follow, what the protection measures will be in place to they can be more encouraged to report in a way that makes them feel secure.
“Corruption is a problem for everyone. Zero tolerance is required as is a collective response, which means changing our culture,” said Nicolaou.
“The state has a duty to encourage the disclosure of information about a corrupt, illegal or harmful practices in any institution in the public or private sector as it threatens the public interest,” he added.
He said police had already established a monitoring-corruption group, in cooperation with the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS).
Nicolaou also congratulated Transparency, saying the organisation’s goal and the government’s one was a common one.
In addition to the whistleblower legislation, the government, he said was working on a comprehensive national strategy to combat corruption to cover both prevention and cure.
A committee under the coordination of the ministry of justice for the preparation of the national strategy had been formed, he added.
This will focus on prevention, education, awareness, enforcement, compliance and accountability.
“It is certain that corruption, whatever form it takes, endangers democracy, undermines good governance, negatively affects economic development, and reduces the effectiveness and development of the state,” Nicolaou said.
“The damage caused is not only in the form of economic costs but it has wider negative effects such as significant undermining of public confidence towards the institutions and the state, and to any notion of democracy.”
By Jean Christou