‘Paying whistleblowers not sustainable policy’

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Robert Egbe

 

LAGOS State Commissioner for Finance Dr. Rabiu Olowo on Tuesday warned that attracting whistleblowers with financial incentives might not be a sustainable government policy.

He encouraged people to see whistleblowing as a civic duty for the society’s benefit, rather than just as a source of material gain.

The commissioner urged the Federal Government to review its whistleblowing policy to emphasise patriotism, saying that preventing theft is better than recovery efforts and chasing thieves.

Olowo spoke at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN Malaysia District) Conference ongoing at Kuching, Malaysia.

He said while whistleblowing is a patriotic activity and should be embraced by all; it will not be a selfless undertaking if tied solely to money.

Referencing countries such as the United Kingdom, Olowo said whistleblowers are usually motivated by societal good, and that the policy may fail in the long run if civic duty is not emphasised.

He raised three questions: “What if those who steal public funds first settle potential whistleblowers with part of the money, would they still blow the whistle after collecting their own share?

“Second, are those who collect financial incentives actually patriotic or they are seeking their share of stolen money?

“Third, should financial incentives be paid before recovery of stolen money or after? What if the monies are not recovered?”

According to him, it may be better to emphasise policies that prevent corruption, in the first instance, than policies that seek to recover funds after they might have disappeared.

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He noted that while financial incentives have led to a sharp increase in whistleblowing cases, there is need for critical analysis and further research to determine the efficacy and sustainability of financial incentives in a country with a norm of corruption.

Olowo said: “For instance, financial incentive introduced in the Nigerian case is witnessing a lot of hiccups, arguments, accusations and counter accusations.

“There have also been several cases of fake whistleblowing, as desperate wealth seekers may have turned it into a ‘money making business.’

“In the current administration in Lagos State, I am an advocate of effective internal controls and prudent management of public funds in line with Governor Sanwo-Olu’s vision”.