Fixing a whistleblower programme to improve compliance
The client is a multinational mining company operating in over 100 countries and listed on a major stock exchange.
The company has had a whistleblower programme for many years; however, the programme had never been reviewed or assessed and questions were being asked about whether it was truly effective. There were questions regarding:
- The quality of the hotline service provider, the tracking and the programme
- Why reports were not followed up correctly or in a timely manner
- Which trends could be drawn from the data and which steps needed to be taken to improve the programme
- Whether the staff globally knew how to use the system and whether it worked in every country
- Whether data was being collected from all sources or just the hotline.
We worked with the client to conduct a review of the entire whistleblower programme. This involved looking at all aspects of the programme: policies, standard operating procedures, guidelines, investigation protocols, reporting structures, case management, call handling, non-retaliation practices and, of course, awareness.
In many engagements of this type, companies lack all of the above programme aspects and simply have a basic hotline from a hotline company and no other supporting systems, tools or processes to guide the programme. It should be noted here that the company did have all of the necessary documents, though some were in draft, some had been implemented, and some had been implemented but not followed.
We also held some small sessions in key markets to get the opinions of the local staff regarding the whistleblower programme. They were not training sessions, although there was an element of awareness and training. However, they were primarily designed to:
- Introduce the whistleblower compliance programme to many people for the first time and explain why the programme was important
- Obtain feedback on the programme in that market
- Understand which local issues existed in the market in terms of whistleblowing (e.g. whether it was culturally acceptable)
- Gain a sense of trust from the employees in the whistleblower system regarding confidentiality and non-retaliation.
- Designing the review of the whistleblower programme and how it was implemented
- Reviewing all material, communications, process and systems
- Conducting interviews and small group sessions in some countries to gain the voice of the customer
- Benchmarking against industry peers and determine where the gaps lay in the programme
- Drafting a report for management and participating in several meetings
- Drafting a gap analysis with clear steps for areas of improvement.
About one month in total, with visits to several operating entities and mining sites across several continents.