Whistleblowers' Centre Act now a fact

30 March 2016

Whistleblowers' Centre Act now a fact

Foto: SP

On the first day of March the Dutch Senate gave its support to the Whistleblowers' Centre Act, an SP initiative. After ten years of fighting for this, whistleblowers will enjoy protection, and abuses can be investigated. SP Member of Parliament Ronald van Raak described it as an historic day. “People who report abuses need soon no longer be afraid; people who cause abuses will soon no longer get away with it.”

What will the Whistleblowers' Centre do?

The law has been adopted, and now the  Whistleblowers Centre will be established. After the summer, people will be able to report. Then first of all there’ll be an investigation of whether there is a question of a social misdeed, such as fraud or corruption, or a threat to security or public health. If someone correctly reports  an abuse, he or she can no longer be fired or in any other way harmed or placed at a disadvantage. Also, an independent enquiry can be launched into the abuse and recommendations made in order to solve the problem. This is an historic day: people who report abuses need soon no longer be afraid; people who cause abuses will soon no longer get away with this.

Why has this taken so long?

Whistleblowers sometimes report sensitive matters about people in high positions, people who have covered up abuses. Many powerful people and forces have been ranged against this law. Ministers and ministries were against it. As were employers (the main employers’ organisation in the Netherlands, VNO-NCW), inspectorates and supervisory bodies. It was a long and hard struggle to win support. Increasing numbers of MPs are involved with whistleblowers, but can’t do anything with the information they provide, because the person reporting would then be put in danger. We succeeded in bringing together politicians from different parties and collectively drew up a law. Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk eventually also gave his support to the Whistleblowers Centre.

Is anything now really going to change?

The discussion around the Whistleblowers' Centre has already changed things. Ten years ago people who reported an abuse were seen as ‘traitors’; now we’re seeing that support in society for whistleblowers is far greater. This cultural change must now take place in the government and in companies. Organisations will soon no longer be able to get away with intimidating a whistleblower and they’ll no longer be able to hush up abuses. I hope that the Whistleblowers' Centre, that’s unique in the whole world, can contribute to  organisations learning more from their mistakes and employees having more confidence in the organisations for which they work.

SP leader Emile Roemer:

Slow and steady wins the race. That’s been proved this week by  Ronald van Raak. Since 2006 he has been working hard for the protection of whistleblowers, for people who expose social abuses.

In the meantime we have got to know the most famous of these whistleblowers.  Ad Bos, who brought to light fraud worth billions of euros in construction. He was treated scandalously and lived for years penniless in a caravan. Fred Spijkers didn’t fare much better. For decades he was intimidated and threatened by the Ministry of Defence because he wasn’t willing to lie about faulty and dangerous landmines.

Last Tuesday Ronald won his ten-year struggle for a Whistleblowers' Centre. Sixty-six members of the 75-strong Senate voted in favour, and none voted against.

With that the Whistleblowers' Centre became fact,  and people like  Ad Bos and Fred Spijkers will as a result enjoy protection against losing their jobs, and against harassment and intimidation.

With the Whistleblowers' Centre ordinary people can contend with powerful corporations and authorities. Anyone reporting an abuse is safe and such matters can no longer be covered up. Also the Centre will be able to carry out investigations  so that new cases of fraud, corruption and dangers to our security and safety can be prevented or addressed.

Slow and steady wins the race. Hard work is rewarded. How proud we are and how Ronald van Raak deserves a massive compliment for his successful struggle!

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