The Malta Independent 24 October 2014, Friday

Whistleblower Act to boost Attorney General’s powers

Malta Independent Monday, 8 July 2013, 19:00 Last update: about 6 months ago

The Attorney General will call the shots to whether an informer emerges scot-free, is given immunity or faces a penalty or jail sentence, or granted a change in identity, after consulting with the Commissioner of Police and the Chief Justice, according to Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Owen Bonnici.

Dr Bonnici was giving details of what the Whistleblower Act will entail once the Act comes into force, prior to discussions held in parliament this evening related to the second reading of the Bill.

Every government department or company, except SMEs, will host a specially set up whistle blowing unit which will receive information related to a crime, who in turn will pass on information to a specially set-up external whistle blowing unit. In the case of small- and medium-sized enterprises, they will not be required to set up an internal unit so as not to incur extra expenses.

“We cannot give a blanket protection and adopt a one-size-fits-all approach; this law will encourage individuals to uncover crimes.

“Our aim is to give as many tools as possible to incentivise individuals to come forward and provide information related to a crime,” Dr Bonnici said, while slamming claims made by the Opposition that the principles of the Act presented by this government are identical to the ones presented during the past legislature by a PN-led government.

Dr Bonnici said that one of Labour’s pre-electoral pledges was to present a bill for the removal of prescription on acts of political corruption, which was presented and approved recently.

He said that the bill had been approved in less than 100 days after Labour was entrusted to govern.

“We also pledged that before the summer recess, we would present a bill that protects informers and here we are about to discuss the second reading of the Bill,” he said.

Dr Bonnici emphasised that the government will be providing tools to protect honest citizens who are ready to give up others who commit a crime.

He expressed satisfaction that the bill will be garnering the full support of the House of Representatives.

“Let’s be very clear, the Bill that was shelved during the previous legislature was an academic bill, nice on paper, an interesting legal exercise, but one that wouldn’t have worked out in practice.

“Today’s Bill is far better, one that acknowledges today’s realities and one that encourages those who really want to uncover corruption to go ahead and do so,” he said.

“The law will bring our country in line with the Council of Europe's recommendations regarding the protection that should be given to the whistleblower,” Dr Bonnici stressed.

He pointed out that the government sought to strike a balance: on the one hand making sure that the person who committed the crime shoulders responsibility and on the other, the government took into consideration how society will benefit as a result of a crime that is uncovered. 

Dr Bonnici pointed out that informers may also be admitted to the Witness Protection Programme.

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