IT for Change (ITfC) is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and takes allegations of misconduct and irregularities seriously. ITfC assumes that employees would feel an innate sense of responsibility to report incidents or suspicion of incidents concerning serious misconduct by employees or representatives of the organisation deemed to be a threat to the public interest, or serious irregularities within the organisation that threaten its integrity, reputation and public trust.
Keeping this in mind, ITfC will provide effective protection to employees who, in good faith and in accordance with the procedure accompanying this policy, lodge formal reports exposing (reasonably-founded suspicion of) serious misconduct or irregularities. This includes protection of his/her identity, where s/he has not explicitly agreed to be identified.
Reprisals against staff as a result of an honest disclosure shall be regarded as a serious violation of this policy, in which case appropriate action will be taken to protect the whistle-blower's position and labour rights, as well as to sanction those responsible for the reprisals.
Where the whistle-blower is a former employee or an employee of another organisation who has come into contact with ITfC or ITfC representatives through his/her work, ITfC also commits to protect the whistle-blower from any reprisals emanating from ITfC staff or other ITfC representatives.
Additionally, ITfC also commits to protecting from victimisation all those assigned a role in the procedure for reporting and investigating such allegations.
For the purposes of this policy, serious misconduct is defined as matters where the public interest is at stake. This may include instances involving criminal offences; breaches of rules other than statutory provisions; risks to public health, safety or the environment; squandering of public funds; risks to the proper functioning of ITfC due to improper acts or negligence; deliberate withholding, destruction or manipulation of information about facts with a bearing on such instances as cited above in this clause.
For the purposes of this policy, a serious irregularity is defined as a deficiency or injustice of a general, operational or financial nature, which occurs under the responsibility of ITfC and which is of such a serious nature that it does not fall under the standard operating procedures and exceeds the responsibility of the immediate manager.
Suspicion of misconduct and irregularities should be based on reasonable grounds arising from knowledge or experience acquired through working for, or closely with ITfC.
This whistle-blower policy is not intended to cover grievances or complaints of employees in respect of conditions of employment, unsatisfactory relations with line managers and other such matters.
The whistle-blower policy and procedure will be published on ITfC’s intranet and made publicly available on ITfC’s website.
2.2 Information, advice and support for the whistle-blower
ITfC has an Integrity Officer who is proposed by ITfC staff through a staff meeting, and formally appointed by the Director. The purpose of the Integrity Officer is to serve as a confidential point of contact, advice and support for the whistle-blower. The Integrity Officer, who shall be independent of ITfC will serve in a voluntary capacity. The Integrity Officer may be consulted in cases of professional and or financial impropriety, misconduct, discrimination, (sexual) harassment and violence as laid out in ITfC’s Code of Conduct.
2.3 Lodging an internal report
An employee who suspects or has knowledge of misconduct or irregularities within ITfC may report this to any manager holding a higher position within the organisation than his/her own or to the Integrity Officer. If the employee has a reasonable suspicion that their line manager is involved, s/he may report the matter to the Director, and where s/he suspects the Director is involved, s/he may make the report to the President of the Board.
Similarly, an employee of another organisation who has come into contact with ITfC through his/her work and suspects or has knowledge of an instance of misconduct or irregularity within IT for Change may report this to any ITfC manager who holds an equivalent or higher position than his/her own, or to the ITfC Integrity Officer or to the ITfC Director. Where the ITfC Director is implicated in the report, then the report should be lodged with an office bearer of the Board such as the President.
Reports should be made as early as possible, and preferably in writing. Reports should contain a description of the suspicion or incident of serious misconduct or irregularities, and as much relevant information as possible including any evidence and witnesses.
If the report is made orally, the person receiving the report shall record this in writing the same day, in consultation with the whistle-blower, who shall approve and sign it, and who shall receive a copy of the report.
Where a report has been received by or lodged with the Integrity Officer or a manager, they shall send the report to the Director immediately except where the report concerns the Director, in which case it should be sent directly to the President of the Board. ‘Director/President of the Board’ used in clauses below should be understood to cover these two scenarios. Upon receipt of the report, the Director/President of the Board will immediately send the whistle-blower an acknowledgement of receipt of the report. This shall include a brief description of the report, the date on which it was received and a copy of the report.
Following receipt of the report, the Director/President of the Board shall, in consultation with the whistle-blower, immediately appoint a contact person with the aim of preventing unfair treatment.
The contact person referred to above shall immediately discuss with the whistle-blower the risks of unfair treatment resulting from the report, how to reduce those risks and what the employee can do if s/he believes that s/he is being treated unfairly. If the allegations are of such a serious nature that disclosure is obliged under law, the whistle-blower will be advised to do so immediately. The contact person shall record the conversation in writing and present it to the whistle-blower for approval and signature. A copy of the record will be given to the whistle-blower.
2.4 Protecting the whistle-blower
2.4.1 The employer shall ensure that the information concerning the report is stored such that it is only accessible to the persons involved in dealing with the report.
2.4.2 No person involved in dealing with the report shall disclose the identity of the whistle-blower without the explicit written consent of the whistle-blower.
2.4.3 Everyone involved in dealing with the report shall treat the information received as confidential, unless there is a legal obligation to disclose the information.
2.4.4 If the (suspected) incident of misconduct or irregularities is reported via the external Integrity Officer and the whistle-blower has not given permission for his/her identity to be disclosed, all correspondence addressed to the whistle-blower regarding the report shall be sent to the external Integrity Officer who shall immediately pass this correspondence on to the whistle-blower.
2.4.5 The employer shall not treat the whistle-blower unfairly where a report has been made in good faith and according to this procedure.
2.4.6 Unfair treatment would include, for example:
- Disciplinary measures such as warnings or suspension without pay
- Dismissal, including early termination of a temporary contract
- Unwarranted non-renewal of a temporary contract
- Extending or limiting duties, other than at the whistle-blower’s request
- Withholding a salary increase, or other financial benefits normally extended to ITfC staff
- Obstructing opportunities for promotion
- Rejecting requests for leave or placing the whistle-blower on forced leave
The employer shall ensure that the whistle-blower’s managers and colleagues refrain from any form of unfair treatment in connection with the report made in good faith and in accordance with proper procedure, and which treatment interferes with the whistle-blower’s ability to function professionally and personally. This includes:
- Bullying, ignoring and excluding the whistle-blower
- Making unfounded or disproportionate accusations about the performance of the whistle-blower
- Intimidating the whistle-blower with threats if s/he proceeds with his/her report
2.4.7 If the whistle-blower believes that s/he is being treated unfairly, s/he can discuss this immediately with the contact person, who will record the discussion in writing for the approval and signature of the whistle-blower, who shall also receive a copy. The contact person will immediately send this record to the Director/President of the Governing Board in the event that it is the Director who is treating the whistle-blower unfairly.
The Director/President of the Board shall ensure that the measures necessary to protect the whistle-blower are taken. This may include instituting disciplinary proceedings against any staff members who treat the whistle-blower unfairly.
2.5 Acting on the report
2.5.1 The Director/President of the Board shall set up an investigation into the reported (suspicion) of misconduct or irregularities, unless s/he deems the suspicion not to be reported in good faith or not based on reasonable grounds, or if it is clear at the outset that the matter does not concern misconduct or irregularities. If the Director/President of the Governing Board decides not to instigate an investigation, s/he shall inform the whistle-blower of this in writing within two weeks following the date of receipt of the report.
2.5.2 In consultation with the Governing Board, the Director/President of the Governing Board will decide whether an external body needs to be informed of the allegations. If s/he decides the case merits this, then s/he will send the whistle-blower a copy of this communication unless the external body has serious objections to this.
2.5.3 The Director/President of the Governing Board shall appoint investigators who are independent and impartial.
2.5.4 The Director/President of the Governing Board shall inform the whistle-blower immediately in writing if the instigation of an investigation and the identities of the persons conducting the investigation, enclosing with this communication a copy of the investigation assignment.
2.5.5 The Director/President of the Governing Board shall inform the subject(s) of the report, whether this has been reported to an external body as envisaged under clause 2.8.3, and that investigation has been instigated, unless there are serious objections from the external body or the investigator on the grounds that this may have a detrimental effect on the investigation.
2.5.6 Throughout the process, ITfC undertakes to ensure that no-one involved in the procedure laid out here is unfairly treated for playing the roles assigned to them, such as the Integrity Officers, the contact person, the investigators or staff cooperating in the investigation. ITfC, furthermore, will treat those accused fairly with due respect for their right to privacy, a fair hearing, and a just and proportional outcome.
2.6 The Investigation
2.6.1 The investigators shall give the whistle-blower the opportunity to voice his/her concerns. They shall record this in writing for the approval and signature of the whistle-blower, who shall receive a copy.
2.6.2 The investigators may also interview other persons. They shall record the interview in writing for the approval and signature of those interviewed, who shall receive a copy.
2.6.3 The investigators may request documents from IT for Change that they reasonably consider necessary for the investigation.
2.6.4 Employees may provide the investigators with any documents they consider reasonably necessary for the investigation.
2.6.5 The investigators shall prepare a draft report, which the whistle-blower would be given an opportunity to read and respond to, unless serious objections exist to oppose this.
2.6.6 The investigators shall then finalise the report of their investigation. The whistle-blower would be sent a copy of the report.
2.7 The Outcome
2.7.1 The Director/Chair of the Governing Board shall consider the report and decide what action to take in light of the investigation. This would include consideration of whether an external body need to be informed of the report, the investigation and the action taken.
2.7.2 Within 8 weeks of the report first being received by the Director/President of the Governing Board, s/he will give the whistle-blower the opportunity to read and respond to the report of the investigators, and will be informed in writing of the position taken by the Director/President of the Governing Board. If the decision was taken to report the matter to an external body, then the whistle-blower shall also receive a copy of that correspondence, unless there are serious objections to doing so.
2.7.3 If it becomes clear that this is not possible within 8 weeks of the report first being received, then the whistle-blower will be informed in writing, along with an indication of when s/he can expect an outcome. Should this be more than 12 weeks after the report was first received by the Director/President of the Governing Board, then justification for the delay should also be communicated.
2.7.4 If, on receiving the report of the investigation and the position of the Director/President of the Governing Board, the whistle-blower responds with arguments as to why s/he does not consider the matter to have been investigated properly or identifies fundamental inaccuracies in the investigation report or objects to the position taken by ITfC, then the Director/President of the Governing Board shall respond to these specific points. If s/he deems the objections to have merit, s/he may instigate a new investigation.
2.7.5 The persons who are the subject of the report will receive the same information specified above as that received by the whistle-blower, and the same opportunity to respond on fundamental inaccuracies or the position adopted by ITfC, except where this would be deemed to have a detrimental effect on enforcement of the decisions or any new investigation.
2.7.6 There may be restrictions on information shared out of reasonable consideration for privacy and confidentiality.
2.8 Lodging an external report
After making an internal report, the whistle-blower may make an external report if
- the whistle-blower feels that ITfC’s reasons for finding suspicion unfounded are incorrect, or s/he has not been notified of the outcome of action on the report within the maximum 12-week period from the date of receipt of the report by the Director/President of the Governing Board, or
- if s/he cannot reasonably be required to make an internal report first. Applicable situations would include where the law provides for this, or where:
- There is an immediate danger, and a significant and urgent public interest necessitates an immediate external report.
- There is reasonable suspicion or knowledge that the Governing Board of ITfC is complicit in the misconduct.
- There is reasonable fear of reprisals on the part of the whistle-blower.
- An earlier report about the same misconduct made in accordance with this procedure did not put an end to the misconduct.
If the whistle-blower reasonably believes that the public interest outweighs ITfC’s interest in confidentiality, the whistle-blower may also make the external report to an external third party that the whistle-blower reasonably deems capable of directly or indirectly resolving or bringing about the resolution of the suspected incident of misconduct.