Your Call’s Managing Director recently collaborated with the team at schoolgovernance.net.au on a two part series focusing on why schools need a whistleblower program and external reporting service.
In part 2 Vincent explains how whistleblower programs work and how it can achieve benefits for your school.
The second installment is featured below:
Originally published by schoolgovernance.com.au
Whistleblowing is regulated by various State and Commonwealth legislation. A common theme of Australian whistleblower laws is the offer of protection (within limits) to people who expose or ‘blow the whistle’ on crimes or other forms of misconduct committed in an organisation. In addition to the whistleblower laws, various other laws exist which may compel people to report illegal conduct. For example the reporting of child abuse may be mandatory.
So how can schools better help their employees to report inappropriate behaviour?
They can do this by having reporting procedures in place which create a safe and secure environment that encourages staff to make disclosures. The reporting procedures are typically outlined in formal whistleblower programs which should be easily accessible to staff.
Key features of a whistleblower program may include:
- clear objectives of the purpose of the program;
- guidance on what conduct is ‘reportable conduct’ (eg conduct that is illegal or breaches any code, law or regulation applicable to the school); and
- allocation of resources to implement and affect the program (eg appointing a Whistleblower Protection Officer and establishing an anonymous, independent/external reporting line such as that offered by Your Call).
Ultimately, schools should adopt a form of whistleblower program or policy that is appropriate to its culture and particular circumstances. The most effective way to ensure that a whistleblower program operates successfully is by ensuring that it is ‘steered from the top’. That is, by having the school board, principal and senior staff support it. Examples of actions which you can take to encourage whistleblowing at your school once you have a whistleblower program include:
- having a clear training program segmented and tailored to different levels in the organisation;
- ensuring that senior management encourage an upward reporting environment; and
- remaining action orientated. eg dealing with good and bad reports, show that you’re listening and that you ‘walk your talk’.
It’s also crucial that barriers and fears to reporting are removed. For example, victimisation, recrimination, loss of employment etc. A good whistleblower program will make this clear to staff.
The importance of a school’s board and management being aware of and supporting its own corporate governance principles and procedures was recently highlighted by an instance of fraud in Canada where over $1.7 million was misappropriated by top administrators. A KPMG audit of that school’s finances noted that board oversight at the taxpayer-funded school was ‘absent or ineffective’.
Have you considered implementing a whistleblower program for your school to help you avoid attracting similar negative media attention and to help you better manage your school governance and risk management requirements?
Update: a Daily Telegraph report this week on the theft of $400,000 from a private girls school in Sydney is a further example of the prevalence of employee theft in schools and, as discussed last week in part one of this two part article, why a whistleblower program can be a useful tool for schools