Legislators in the Lower Chamber of Parliament on Monday passed the principle of the draft amendment of the law on the protection of whistleblowers, although 14 lawmakers abstained while two voted against it.
The bone of contention in the law that was in principle supported by the entire house was the idea to reward whistleblowers who bring forth cases of misconduct within public institutions.
The draft law, which was tabled before parliament by the State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, was approved by the Cabinet Meeting of April 5 2017.
The law is set to replace one that was enacted in 2012.
A whistleblower is defined as a person who alerts authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities or misconduct occurring in a government department, a public or private organisation.
“One way of knowing if someone committed a crime or is planning on committing one, is through information gathering. That information helps when it is obtained in good time for the competent organs to follow up,” Uwizeyimana lawmakers.
He added that it was necessary to include the protection of the whistleblower and show how he/she should be protected when disclosed.
The 2012 law did not properly outline the different forms of harassment that could be inflicted on the whistleblower and therefore did not put in place enough safeguards to protect him or her and his/her family or friends.
However, some of the key issues that caught the lawmakers’ attention during the tabling of the legislation included the rewarding of the whistleblowers, with some insisting that the Rwanda’s integrity would be called into question; and some unscrupulous individuals may end up taking the facility as a job opportunity.
The draft law does not outline the forms of rewards to be given to the whistleblower.
“In the 2012 law, we found gaps comparatively to other international laws as also it did not provide the rewarding of whistleblowers and that could hinder the fight against some crimes like corruption,” Uwizeyimana added.
However, MP Juvenal Nkusi said that there are organs that are in charge of information gathering and the government allocate budget for these institutions, and so they should not create parallel jobs.
“How are they going to be paid? Actually the 2012 law is clear, it gave the discretion the implementing agency to determine if there was any form of incentive for those that come forth with valuable information.
Nkusi said that if this is put it in a law, we shall end up in a legal limbo where the person not paid for giving information will take government to court.
“In that case how are you going to protect his or identity? For this is also provided for by the law…” he added.
Other legislators said that because of the financial incentive, people may end up peddling falsehoods.
This was however dispelled by Uwizeyimana, saying that the law does not absolve Rwandans of playing their civic duties and clarified that the reward is not defined in terms of money and so won’t be appropriated in the national budget.
He admitted that the debate is still open as most MPs asked themselves why a civic obligation should be rewarded.
The lawmakers agreed to take the law and further the discussions on its contents at the committee level.
World over, whistleblowers’ have helped save billions of dollars, and even human lives as people “blow the whistle” and disclose acts violating the code of conduct and professional ethics governing authorities of public and non-public institutions.Follow https://twitter.com/EliseeMpirwa