Ethics Protocols
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Frequently Asked Questions about Whistleblowing

A         Definition of Whistleblowing

  • What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is a confidential disclosure by an individual, or group of people, of any        concern encountered in the workplace relating to a perceived wrongdoing.

  • What is the difference between whistleblowing and making a complaint?

In practical terms, whistleblowing occurs when a worker raises a concern about danger or illegality that affects others. The person blowing the whistle is usually not directly or personally affected by the danger or illegality. Consequently, the genuine whistleblower rarely has a personal interest in the outcome of any investigation. As a result, the whistleblower should not be expected to prove his or her case - rather he or she raises the concern so others can address it. This is different from a complaint. When someone complains, they are saying that they have personally been poorly treated. This poor treatment could involve a breach of their individual employment rights or bullying and the complainant is seeking redress or justice for themselves. The person making the complaint therefore has a vested interest in the outcome of the complaint, and, for this reason, is expected to be able to prove their case.

B         Procedures to be followed by the Whistleblower

  • Can concerns be raised confidentially or anonymously?

The best way to raise a concern is to do so openly (as opposed to anonymously). Openness will make it easier for AF to assess the issue, work out how to investigate the matter, understand any motive and get more information. An individual raises a concern confidentially if he or she gives his or her name, date of birth, CNIC number and phone number on the condition that it is not revealed, unless the Ethics Committee concludes that the whistleblower had acted maliciously or in bad faith. An individual raises a concern anonymously if he or she does not give his or her name and other details. Clearly, if AF does not know who provided the information, it is not possible to reassure or protect him or her. Anonymous whistleblowing may also result in more calls with malicious intent and thus a waste of investigators’ time. Therefore, at AF, whereas all concerns raised will be treated with utmost confidentiality, anonymous calls or emails sent fictitiously will not be entertained.

  • What information should a whistleblower provide?

The whistleblower should state the facts with as much specific information as possible so that the allegations can be investigated.  The whistleblower should not speculate or draw conclusions, and should be prepared to be questioned further. Below are basic questions the whistleblower should answer to help describe the situation in an email:

        • Identify the person(s) engaged in the wrongdoing.
        • Is the management involved? Or is it known that the management is involved?                                   
        • Is management aware of this problem?
        • What is the nature of the wrongdoing?
        • Where did this incident or violation occur?
        • How long has this problem been going on?
        • How did the whistleblower become aware of this violation or wrongdoing?
        • Provide all details regarding the alleged violation, including the locations of witnesses  and any other information that could be valuable in the evaluation and ultimate resolution of this situation.
  • Is there a deadline for filing a whistleblower report?

No, but it is important to file a report as soon as the whistleblower has enough assurance to make a good faith report.  Ideally, the whistleblower should report as soon as possible after discovery of the wrong-doing or improper activity.  If delayed, evidence becomes stale, hampering investigation, and then AF may not be able to resolve the problem.

  • What happens after a whistleblower report is filed?

A preliminary investigation will be conducted by the Ethics Committee and the whistleblower may be contacted with additional questions. The preliminary investigation will determine if a full investigation should be undertaken and by whom.

  • How can the whistleblower help with the investigation?

The whistleblower can provide as much factual information and evidence as possible in order to allow the investigation to proceed.  However, the whistleblower should not obtain any evidence for which he/she does not have right of access. He or she should not do his or her own investigation. Conducting their own investigation can pose safety and legal risks to the whistleblower, others, and AF. The whistleblower should be prepared to be interviewed and to provide all the information he/she knows about the allegations.

  • Will the whistleblower be informed of the outcome of his/her report?

The whistleblower generally has the right to be informed of the disposition of his/her disclosure and the findings of any investigation, although there might be overriding legal or public interest reasons not to do so.  Any action taken against an employee as a consequence of the findings of the investigation, however, may be personal and confidential, in which case it cannot be disclosed.

  • Can the whistleblower discuss the matter with friends and colleagues?

If the whistleblower self-discloses his/her identity, AF will no longer be obligated to maintain their confidentiality.  To protect their confidentiality and the confidentiality of the investigation, it is advisable for the whistleblower not to discuss the matter with friends and colleagues. Keep in mind that propriety information regarding AF may not be disclosed to any unauthorized party outside AF.

  • What happens to the whistleblower if the allegations are not sustained?

If the whistleblower had a reasonable belief that an improper AF activity had occurred and made a good faith report that disclosed or demonstrated an intention to report the activity, it is a protected disclosure under the policy. If the whistleblower knowingly or recklessly made an allegation or disclosure that proves to be unsubstantiated, he or she may be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal.

  • What if there is retaliation towards the whistleblower?

It is AF’s policy and practice that none of its staff shall discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any manner discriminate against an employee reporting in good faith within the scope of this whistleblower policy. 

  • What if word gets out about a whistleblower and people are making it difficult for him/her to work here?

If the whistleblower feels that he/she is being retaliated against for being a whistleblower, he/she may file a written retaliation complaint with Human Resources department as per HR policy.

  • What is considered to be “retaliation?”

Examples of retaliation are management actions that violate the personnel policies applicable to the whistleblower or that adversely affect the terms and conditions of employment, such as termination, compensation decreases, poor work assignments and threats of physical harm.

  • What are the basic requirements for a retaliation complaint?

A retaliation complaint must be filed within 12 months of the alleged act or threat of interference or retaliation.  In order for a retaliation complaint to be accepted pursuant to any of the above processes, the whistleblower must previously have:

  • filed a report alleging improper activities.     
  • alleged that the whistleblower was threatened, coerced, commanded, or prevented by intimidation from filing a whistleblower report; or
  • refused to obey an illegal order.
  • What information should the whistleblower include in his/her retaliation complaint?

The complaint must set forth in enough detail the necessary facts, including dates and names of relevant persons.  It must contain facts supporting the alleged retaliatory acts, and the effects of the alleged retaliatory acts on the whistleblower.

  • Who will investigate the whistleblower’s retaliatory complaint?

Human Resources and/or a third party as appointed under AF’s HR Policy 

  • How long will an investigation take?

Every attempt will be made to investigate and reach a decision as quickly as possible.  However, it depends upon the fact-gathering process.

  • What if the whistleblower does not agree with the decision?

A decision based on the substance of the complaint is final.  However, a decision that the complaint was not filed on a timely basis or that the complaint does not qualify for review can be appealed to the Chief Operating Officer.

  • If retaliation is found, will the whistleblower be informed of the action taken?

The whistleblower will be informed of any appropriate relief for him/her, but the whistleblower will not necessarily be informed of any corrective action taken against the person who retaliated against him/her.  There might be overriding legal or public interest reasons not to do so.

  • Procedures to be Followed by the Subject of a Whistleblower Investigation
  • If a person is accused of committing an improper activity and an investigation takes place, will the subject have the opportunity to explain his/her actions?

Yes, but keep in mind that the decision to conduct an investigation is not an accusation – it is a neutral fact-finding process.  The subject will be given opportunities for input during the investigation, and he/she will be given an opportunity to respond to material points of evidence to be used in the investigation report unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.

  • Can the subject of a whistleblower investigation consult a lawyer?

 The subject has a right to consult with anyone, including a lawyer. 

  • Will the subject be informed of the outcome of the investigation?

Yes, the subject has a right to be informed of the outcome of the investigation.

  • What happens if the allegations are sustained?  Will disciplinary action be taken against the subject?

Any disciplinary action will be determined by management and will be administered in accordance with applicable employee conduct and disciplinary procedures. 

  • What happens to the subject if the allegations are not sustained?

If the allegations are not sustained, the case will be closed. 

  • Procedures to be followed if a Manager receives a Whistleblower Disclosure
  • If a Manager at any level receives from an employee, partner, grantee, sub-grantee, vendor or other party a whistleblower disclosure that pertains to a reportable violation or situation, he or she should handle it with utmost care and immediately refer to the Ethics Committe