(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday significantly increased the State Comptroller’s power to extend protective orders to whistle- blowers on public corruption to protect them from retaliation.
Until now, the comptroller’s power to protect whistle-blowers from being fired for revealing their employers’ illegal activities was strictly limited to those providing complete evidence of public corruption.
If a whistle-blower knew of public corruption, but could only provide evidence of mismanagement and other lower- grade errors that showed only parts of the picture, the comptroller could not protect him.
According to the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, this left many whistle- blowers unprotected and created negative incentives for cooperation with the state to reveal public corruption.
The bill would empower the comptroller to protect whistle- blowers who reveal mismanagement, if that evidence is in some way helpful toward the greater cause of fighting public corruption, even if it is not direct evidence.
The Movement said that this change would fix the incentives so that employees would be encouraged to come forward to expose corruption without fear.
In May, attorney Shoshanna Gavish presented statistics of the failure of the legal system to defend whistle-blowers’ rights at an international conference.
Gavish presented data collected by attorney Noah Alister (in coordination with Dr.
Chani Ofek) that from 1991- 2012, 77 percent of lawsuits filed by supposed whistle- blowers for being fired in retaliation for revealing corruption were rejected.
Of those lawsuits, 69% were filed in the public sector.
The data also indicated that despite significant recent public efforts to combat this phenomenon, that for 2012-2013, 69% of the lawsuits were still being rejected.
A bill sponsored by MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) to make it easier to file and maintain lawsuits for retaliatory firings was submitted in December 2013, but there has not been any progress on it to date.
Regarding the proposed bill, Gavish said that the state’s assistance to whistle-blowers on “corruption must be holistic and comprehensive, both in dealing with the difficulties of those exposing corruption and in guaranteeing a job after the revelations,” such as ensuring that the employee can transfer to serve under a different supervisor.
Also on Sunday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira announced that starting in July his office would begin oversight of the Jewish National Fund for the first time – as a body that is heavily sponsored by the public, but has had little oversight to date.