John Manzongo At the Workplace
There has been so much talk as to why corrupt activities continue to thrive at the workplace yet there seems to be no solution in sight as to how best to deal with this rot.
There seems to be a possible solution, which is that of protecting whistleblowers: those people who voluntarily come out in the open to expose that so and so is doing this and that outside of the law.
This will increase transparency and accountability in public and private entities.
Many workers at their various levels of employment are aware of corrupt or underhand dealings but just because they are afraid of being victimised or sacked when it is realised that they are the whistle-blowers, they have decided to keep quiet.
In such times where jobs are scarce and money is hard to come by, many people are just concerned about the upkeep of own families rather than being watchdogs for the whole nation where there are no benefits or rewards for such.
In Government there is the Official Secrets Act to make sure sensitive information is not leaked and security comprised.
I am not sure how this Act can be modified so that corrupt officials do not use it to suppress exposure of individual corrupt activities while hiding behind national security issues.
Many workers today can confess that they know of corrupt activities happening at their workplaces but they cannot divulge them because there is no protection for workers who blow the whistle.
Individual and group efforts by a few brave workers to expose corruption or unethical dealings is always a suicidal move as they almost always end up dragged to disciplinary hearings facing the blanket charge of insubordination. Needless to say, they are often fired.
There is need for Government to amend the Labour Act, for instance Labour Regulations Statutory Instrument 15/2006 gives the advantage to the employer to plot pre-determined hearing outcomes.
It gives the employer power to unilaterally appoint a hearing authority and that person can easily be influenced or biased towards the company.
The Act also does not define actual penalties thereby giving room for employers to give harsh judgments like dismissal for minor offences.
Today most companies have their own codes of conduct.
The whole labour justice delivery process involving appeals up to the courts needs to be streamlined to ensure that cases do not drag on for years while cover-ups are instituted.
Corruption and unethical business practices occur in full view; from facilitating processing of orders, making payments, processing salaries, to typing minutes.
Ordinary workers are well aware of what is happening at their workplaces.
Employees can provide valuable information on the abuses taking place in parastatals and in the private sector to enable investigations and prosecution of corrupt individuals, but they have chosen to “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”.
Many workers tend to say among themselves “there are no marks for bravery”; whatever you see leave it as long as it does not affect your salary.
Some bosses, when they realise that a worker is awake to their corruption, indirectly “reward” such employees to buy their silence. They get promotions and paid assignments, such as foreign trips.
This is both to buy silence and to get these workers out of the way so that they can carry out their corruption.
Some disciplinary hearings are used as examples to other workers who might want to be heroes.
When they see one of their heroes being sent packing, fear is instilled in them and no one wants to be seen doing the same thing that got their colleague fired.
This entrenches corruption in companies.
Workers rights to privacy are also violated where employers snoop through personal e-mails of workers without search warrants.
When courageous workers report their findings to the boards these days, sometimes they are told to bring evidence of their allegations instead of the board investigating such tip-offs.
When one finally brings the evidence. they are arrested or penalised for violating secrecy regulations.
Reporting to the board again when you are a mere worker is deemed insubordination and attempts to undermine the authority of managers, and this usually warrants disciplinary action.
People are reluctantly participating in facilitating corruption because they don’t know if it can be stopped, so they have adopted the attitude of “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
Look at the prevalence of what one may consider as petty corrupt activities: reports of bribes at police roadblocks, at passport offices and at border entry points; and the mega white collar corruption deals.
Why are a lot of good citizens not coming forward with information but are remaining silent?
It appears the corrupt are the ones being rewarded through promotions in parastatals, not even mentioning the hidden loot they receive as bribes and kickbacks.
For people to come forward, the relevant authorities need to seriously look at improving labour regulations and introduction of a whistleblower protection framework.