The ACTION Coalition believes that amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Bill have generally improved upon the original version of the law tabled in the National Assembly on February 16 2017.

An amended version of the law was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday June 6 2017. The bill will now proceed to the National Council.

We particularly welcome the deletion of clause 52(1d), which would have allowed for protection to be removed if the aim of the whistleblower was to criticise government. In addition, it is laudable that the law now explicitly protects those who blow the whistle on human rights violations in addition to other acts of wrongdoing (clause 2 (1b). Other amendments will also improve the law, such as the extension of whistleblower protection to those whose employment contracts mandate secrecy (clause 30 (5)) and the assurance that protection continues by default until a tribunal has found otherwise (clause 52 (5)).

The law is not perfect: the bill still penalises intentional false reporting (clause 30 (6a)), which we believe may act as a deterrent to genuine whistleblowers who fear retribution. While we would have preferred the penalty to be struck entirely, we welcome the reduction of the maximum penalty for false reporting from N$100 000 to N$30 000 and the maximum jail term from 20 years to 10. It is unfortunate that penalties for those who intimidate whistleblowers were also reduced (clause 30 (6b)) – but at least the maximum monetary fine for intimidation is still higher (at N$50 000) than for false reporting, and the maximum jail term for
intimidation remains unchanged at 20 years.

ACTION had called for the Office of Whistleblower Protection to be more independent.

We therefore welcome the inclusion of the Magistrates’ Commission in the process of appointing Commissioners (clause 8 (3a)). We also note that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice is no longer the accounting officer of the Office of Whistleblower Protection (removal of clause 6 (6). This may enable more independence, depending on the final arrangement.

We had also called for the inclusion of a more diverse group of stakeholders in the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (clause 20). Unfortunately, except for a clarification on employers’ organisations and unions and the mention of fair gender representation, there has been no improvement in these amendments.

Effective whistleblower protections are a key feature of open democracies. In this spirit, ACTION welcomes government’s willingness to engage with stakeholders on this bill, and to take suggestions into account when drafting improvements. The amendments made to the bill on Tuesday may enable it to live up to its potential, and allow the creation of a Namibia where whistleblowers feel free to report wrongdoing without fearing retribution.

For further information – contact:
ACTION Namibia Secretariat
Tel: +264 61 230560

Graham Hopwood
Executive Director: Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
Mobile: 081 294 3340