Italian Parliament approves law to protect whistleblowers
Yesterday, the Italian parliament approved a law to protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing in the public and private sector. Italy has a new powerful tool to fight and reduce corruption. Potential whistleblowers finally have legal safeguards that protect and encourage them to take the risk of speaking out about fraud and mismanagement, reducing the opportunities for misuse of public funds.
The passing of the law would not have been possible without the advocacy efforts of Italian campaigners including Riparte il futuro and Transparency International Italy who through their campaign #Vocidigiustizia (Voices of Justice) collected more than 65,000 signatures from the public and continuously put pressure on Parliament.
The Italian law follows a number of A Change of Direction´s policy recommendations for an effective whistleblowing law including protection from retaliation and penalties for retaliators who discriminate against public employees. One omission in the law is that it does not allow for anonymous reporting. This may deter potential whistleblowers, who fear that their identity will become known and may face harm, even though the law aims to keep their identity confidential.
Italy has now become only the eighth country in the European Union (EU) to adopt full protection for whistleblowers. See our map and assessment of whistleblowing laws in EU countries here showing that Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, France, the Netherlands are the only European Union (EU) countries that provide comprehensive protection (Italy will be updated soon!). Italy’s new law will not only protect Italian whistleblowers, but also sends a message to the EU to present a legislative proposal on the protection of whistleblowers as soon as possible.
While last month’s efforts by the European Parliament to adopt a report on measures to protect whistleblowers provides momentum for an EU directive across Europe, the report is non-binding and we need a more ambitious attempt from the European Commission to introduce a proposal. A recent study published by the Commission has shown that, in countries where whistleblower protection is in place, the economic benefits of protecting whistleblowers far outweigh the costs faced by the public sector to set up and maintain whistleblowing laws. The study estimated that the potential benefits of effective whistleblower protection for the EU as a whole are in the range of EUR 5.8 to 9.1 billion each year in the area of public procurement.
Now that the Commission has economic justification for protecting whistleblowers and more and more countries including Italy have adopted whistleblowing laws, there are no legitimate reasons to keep postponing a EU directive to protect whistleblower across Europe.