JIS News

Cabinet has issued drafting instructions for the proposed Whistleblower legislation, which will facilitate the disclosure of information about wrong-doing to the relevant authorities, and provide for the protection of persons making those disclosures.
Addressing this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, underscored the importance of provisions being made to include private sector organisations, and to capture all forms of wrongdoing that can be reported within an organisation. It will also speak to gross mismanagement or misconduct that has occurred, or is about to occur.
She noted that disclosures can also be made if someone within an organisation has a legal obligation to act or carry out an activity and does not do so, or if there was a miscarriage of justice, or the likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. “There is a culture of snitching in our society. This is really giving protection to those persons who want to come forward and talk,” the Attorney-General assured.
Senator Lightbourne pointed out that the definition of employee under the legislation had been widened to cover independent contractors, and would also bring into the loop, voluntary, religious, and charitable organisations.
The Attorney-General further explained that the legislation would mandate organisations to designate a person to whom acts deemed as corrupt or mismanagement can be reported, and that such persons would be obliged to investigate and deal with the matter.
“Of course, we recognise that the person to whom you are making the disclosure might be implicated, so that’s why we are making provisions for another route to blow the whistle if you are not sure that you are comfortable with the person to whom you should blow the whistle,” she stated, noting that the structure being put in place would enable whistleblowers to make disclosures to “responsible persons” such as a legal advisor, Minister, among several others.
The Attorney-General pointed out that some disclosure would have to be dealt with delicately, such as those related to national security information. “If one has information to give (on national security matters), then we have to make provision that, that information can only be provided to the Prime Minister (as head of Defence). We have to be careful that you don’t endanger national security,” she stated.
In addition, provisions will be made to ensure that persons, who need protection after giving information, have the backing of the witness protection programme. “Also, this protection means that if you blow the whistle and you suffer any form of victimisation, then you could take the matter to court. We recognise that such persons might not have the money to go to court, so we are proposing in the legislation that such persons be provided with legal aid,” the Justice Minister said.
She noted that the possibility of mischief had also been taken into consideration and hence, one of the requirements was that the person making the disclosure must “do so in good faith, and they must have a reasonable belief in the truth of the disclosure, that the wrong-doing has taken place, or is about to take place”.
The legislation will not protect persons who breach client/lawyer, or doctor/patient confidentiality. It will also not protect persons who have been deemed to commit an offence under the Official Secrets Act, or Corruption Prevention Act, by making such disclosures.

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