Victoria University of Wellington is the only New Zealand university in the ‘Whistling While They Work 2’ study, which looks at whistleblowing processes in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors on both sides of the Tasman.
Its just-released latest report, Whistleblowing: New Rules, New Policies, New Vision captures lessons about the nature and performance of whistleblowing processes in 46 organisations in Australia and New Zealand. It draws on data from a survey of almost 18,000 people who were asked about the processes for reporting wrongdoing, actual reporting practice, and their observations of the process.
The research offers crucial insights into how organisations can handle complaints at work more effectively. The study shows that contrary to commonly held beliefs, far more complaints than expected are taken up and dealt with at various levels. It also shows that risk assessment is a key component: the sooner risk assessment is made on an allegation, the better the outcomes are for both individuals and organisations.
With project lead Professor A J Brown from Griffith University in Australia, Associate Professor Michael Macaulay from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government compared results from New Zealand and Australian public sector respondents to the survey.
Associate Professor Macaulay says the research found broad consistency in the forms of wrongdoing observed and reported by public employees in both countries and similar reasons why people chose not to report wrongdoing. Respondents in both countries did not think anything would be done, they did not feel they would be protected, and they did not think their identities would be kept secret.
Personal and workplace grievances, such as bullying, discrimination or harassment and unfair work practices were identified as being among the top five most prevalent forms of wrongdoing across the country and across local and national government.
“There does appear to be lower awareness of whistleblowing processes among respondents in New Zealand, and more formal training related to whistleblowing in Australia than New Zealand,” Associate Professor Macaulay says. “But it is interesting that in New Zealand integrity and conduct issues are discussed more informally in meetings and in office conversations. We are not saying one way is more effective than the other, but it is notable that jurisdictions appear to use different channels.”
He says the report is timely as the New Zealand Government is currently reviewing its framework of legislation and procedures around protected disclosures.
“Whistleblowing processes are vital to integrity and good governance and many organisations are becoming more aware of both the benefits and responsibilities that go with effective whistleblowing processes.”
The project is led by Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy and includes researchers from the University of Sydney, Australian National University, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, CPA Australia and the New Zealand State Services Commission.