Your-Call’s Managing Director, Vincent Quattropani, recently collaborated with the team at schoolgovernance.net.au on a two part series focusing on why schools need a whistleblower policy.
The first installment is featured below:
Originally published by schoolgovernance.com.au
This is the first in a two part article which explains why having a whistleblower policy is recommended for schools and how it can enhance a school’s culture once implemented.
It’s easy for schools to relegate the issue of having and implementing a whistleblower program to the bottom of their daily ‘to-do’ lists. A robust whistleblower policy is however an important part of managing a school’s Student Duty of Care, Workplace Health and Safety and School Governance requirements. Whistleblowing should not be seen by schools as threatening or complex, but as a process which encourages compliance amongst staff and also works to protect students, school executives and governors.
Whilst many schools may think that incidents of fraud and corruption mainly affect big corporates whose publicised deep pockets are susceptible to acts of employee greed, the reality is that schools are not immune to fraud and corruption and other inappropriate behaviour such as bullying and harassment – all of which can be more effectively managed through a whistleblower policy.
Recent cases of large-scale fraud committed against universities and schools demonstrate the devastating financial impact that such crimes can have on education organisations. In 2011 a cashier was jailed for nine years for stealing more than $27 million from Adelaide University. In that case, the cashier was described as using the University as his own ‘personal bank account’ and in response to his actions the University committed to introducing tighter financial controls.
And in 2013 a Christian college bookkeeper was sentenced to 19 months jail for stealing more than $250,000 from the college. In sentencing the bookkeeper, the magistrate noted the ‘substantial and ongoing breach of trust’ that had occurred as a result of the theft.
Can schools prevent the loss of such large amounts of money?
A 2012 report by KPMG found that 47% of respondents to their survey believed that major frauds occur due to deficient internal controls and governance frameworks/risk management. So although it’s impossible to totally control human behaviour, empirical data shows that having good risk management programs and a whistleblower policy in place can increase the likelihood that irregular behaviour by employees will be detected earlier.
But it’s not just acts of fraud and corruption that can be reported under a whistleblower policy; bullying, inappropriate behaviour, harassment and a range of other conduct types should be included. Importantly, if a teacher knows that a colleague is abusing a child under his or her care an external whistleblower procedure (in addition to following other legal processes) can also provide an anonymous, confidential process for initial reporting of the behaviour without the fear of vilification.
After all, employees are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the employer.
Does your school have a whistle-blowing policy in place?