The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Huge leaps forward

Owen Bonnici Friday, 14 September 2018, 08:27 Last update: about 3 months ago

The 2013 elections held in Malta on Saturday 9th March gave the Labour Party a majority of seats over the Nationalist Party, which had been in power since 1987, save for a short period of less than two years.

Just six months after, in September 2013, the Maltese Government had already finalised the legislative process relating to the Protection of the Whistleblower Act, 2013: a concrete proof that the Labour Government had started to implement his promises as stated in the electoral manifesto. But more than that, the Labour Government was also filling all the huge and important gaps in our system which had been neglected by the previous Administration for all of its well, 25 years in power.

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The Whistleblower Act was just one of an endless list of measures taken by the Government to strengthen our Justice system, our Democracy and the Rule of Law.

In short, the Whistleblower Act makes provision for procedures in terms of which employees in both the private sector and the public administration may disclose information regarding improper practices by their employers or other employees in the employ of their employers, and to protect employees who make said disclosures from detrimental actions.

Having said the above, I cannot really understand how exponents of the Nationalist Party portray themselves as the champion of Democracy, Good Governance and Rule of Law. This is far from the real situation.

I felt proud with our achievements, when I delved in the report published by the organization 'Blueprint for free speech' which follows an EU-funded study entitled "Gaps in the System". The report states that Malta's whistleblower legislation is one of the most robust throughout the countries in the European Union and contains many, if not most, European and international standards.

I will not add my comments with the excerpts below. They are proof enough that this government is making huge leaps forward, where others did not even tread.

Out of the 28 member states of the European Union, the report singles out Malta and states that, "The blanket immunity in Malta's Protection of the Whistleblower Act (2013) is among the strongest in the world: "Notwithstanding the provisions of the Criminal Code or of any other law, a whistleblower who makes a protected disclosure is not liable to any civil or criminal proceedings or to a disciplinary proceeding for having made such a disclosure"."

According to nine diverse categories covering all aspects of the whistleblower system, Malta scored the second highest percentage, that of 59.3%, with the highest being that of Ireland, 66.7%.

Malta is among the only four countries in the European Union, together with France, Ireland and the UK, which scored more than 50%. Only 13 of the 28 countries scored above 25%, with 7 countries scoring 0% across all categories.

Only 3 countries of the EU28, including Malta, have laws which provide for comprehensive protection from workplace retaliation and criminal prosecution. In particular, the report describes the protection offered by the Maltese law as among the strongest in the world.

The report also mentions that only two countries in the EU shield whistleblowers from punitive prosecution, especially those who disclose sensitive information, with Malta being one of the two.

Malta is one of 8 European countries which have given existing agencies the responsibility to receive whistleblower reports and oversee whistleblower rules and policies. 

These results clearly underline Malta's commitment in this sector and that we are on the forefront to concretely promote the rule of law.  The legislation which we have promulgated is very robust and a blue-print for most countries which still need to get their act together and pass a law catering for this area.  We now have an objective, independent certification which attests how much the law that we did is strong and relevant.

The good news is that we will certainly not rest on our laurels.  We need to keep improving the sector all the time.

We are now analysing the recommendations included in the report to further strengthen the principles of good governance provided by the existing legislation.  Most of the recommendations are valid and make such - such as the creation of an authority or entity tasked with the co-ordination and communication of how the law is working on the ground with the various stakeholders.

We  will not stop here. My goal as the Minister responsible for Justice is that we improve our rule of law for the sake of a stronger, healthier Malta.


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