I reckon that we are all faced with improper behaviour in the workplace during our careers. It might be a colleague, a superior or even a good friend. The question that grinds through your head like a ubiquitous toothache is – “Should I blow the whistle?” The unrelenting harassment of the “what if” questions leading to a final decision which haunts us – “Did I make the right decision?”

70% of whistleblowers experienced stress – induced physical problems

In a survey of Nurses in Western Australia, the stress-induced health effects of whistleblowing were examined. The results indicated that 70% of whistleblowers experienced stress-induced physical problems with the most frequent symptoms being restless sleep, fatigue, anger, anxiety, insomnia and disillusionment to name only a few.

The survey also indicated that non-whistleblowers suffered similar percentages of stress-induced symptoms, but with a higher degree of guilt, shame and unworthiness than experienced by whistleblower colleagues.

These findings confirm that situations of whistleblowing are stressful, and it may cause physical and emotional health problems, whether one blows the whistle or not.

40% of transgressions detected from whistle blowing initiatives

Occupational fraud is a reality in almost every business environment in South Africa and research has found that losses vary from an average of 5% of an organization’s gross annual income to almost 20% in SME’s. The average case of fraud occurs over a period of at least 18 months before it is detected. Occupational fraud is committed from within, against the business, by its own officers, directors, or employees and 40% of these transgressions, are detected from whistleblowing initiatives. A high percentage of participation, despite the stress associated with whistleblowing is a COURAGEOUS act.

Moral turpitude is a legal term introduced in the Immigration Act of the USA, and it is described as conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. To build a culture that promotes honesty, respect, responsibility and accountability is the responsibility of each South African Citizen to choose to stand for something – wise words recently said by Stephen van Coller, CEO of EOH.

Sidetracked focus takes away exec’s focus

Business models are challenged due to the unforeseen and abrupt COVID-19 pandemic. The uniqueness of the current economic environment forces executives to focus on the operational and financial stability of their business, as opposed to compliance and fighting fraud in similar measure. Budgets are re-evaluated and compliance and fighting fraud suddenly become non-essential. Immediate measures such as salary cuts and job losses make people vulnerable and creates opportunities for employees, suppliers, customers, agents and others to commit fraud.

During this time of intense financial strain and economic uncertainty, the motivation to engage and commit fraud varies from person to person. The pivotal factors can either be financial pressure, the opportunity exists or the act can be rationalised. In the current space, the common threat caused by COVID-19, results in a strong sense of solidarity, preventing individuals from blowing the whistle on acts of fraud and improper behaviour.

Despite the unprecedented situation, living with integrity shouldn’t be negotiable. The whistle should be blown on suspicious behaviour of fraud and corruption, governance and compliance failures.

#SaySomething

Decide to live with integrity and be bold enough so that others envy your courage. Blow the whistle and say something when you need to – you are after all, a courageous fellow South African Citizen.

Mouna Eksteen
Executive Head: XTND