Setting up safe ways for individuals to report concerns without fear of retribution.

Whistleblowing is a highly effective form of raising concerns. Corruption, due to its very nature, is one of the most difficult crimes to prove, and therefore it’s vital that people should be aware of the indicators of corruption and feel supported in raising concerns, without fear of detriment. The last point is critical, as concerns are often raised about a more senior colleague.

Unfortunately, whistleblowing is often associated with horror stories and negative consequences, making it more difficult to convince people that they can use it safely. To make it work successfully, it needs to be easy to use, trusted, confidential and above all, demonstrated to make a difference. Many countries do not benefit from having whistleblowing legislation in place, as raising concerns is perceived to be very difficult and sometimes dangerous.

Examples and further resources

Reporting match-fixing in sport

Sportradar have developed a mobile app that ensures players and match-officials have a channel to report match-fixing, or any other suspicious activity relating to sport corruption at any time, anonymously and confidentially. Users can save and attach audio files as well as pictures or videos as evidence to support a report. The organisation’s official integrity-related rules and regulations are also easily accessible to ensure players and match-officials are clear about the code of conduct they must follow.

Tracking bribes on trade routes in Nigeria

Despite African highways appearing to provide reasonable infrastructure for trade and transport, the demand for bribes is paramount. Trade Route Incident Mapping System (TRIMS) is an innovative electronic platform set up to expose and fight the upsurge of corrupt practices and harassment inhibiting trade, transport and commercial transactions especially along trade and border routes.

It is an app introduced by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in conjunction with the Government of Ogun State in Nigeria. It gives traders and transporters an easy way to report demands for bribes, as well as general delays and other useful information. The aim is to provide evidence that can be used by both government and private organisations to advocate for the eradication of trade bottlenecks and illegal checkpoints. 

Mapping bribes at ports

The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) maintains an Anonymous Incident Reporting portal, which is a platform for reporting corruption such as demands for bribes at ports for the maritime industry. Over the last ten years around 50,000 incidents have been reported in 149 countries, covering over 1,000 ports.

The platform enables MACN to collect data on where and how corruption takes place within the maritime supply chain. Their 2022 report on the past decade shows the extent of the problem, but also provides ways of measuring the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures over time.

Citizens speaking up anonymously

I Paid a Bribe was founded by the Indian non-profit Janaagraha to tackle corruption by harnessing the collective energy of citizens. The website allows individuals to report actual corrupt acts, giving an overview of bribes occurring across their city and so creating a database. I Paid a Bribe uses the information gathered via the site to advocate for better governance systems and procedures, strengthened law enforcement and reduced opportunities for corruption. It also has the option to report refusing a demand for a bribe, or not being asked to pay a bribe in the first place due to a new procedure or an honest official.

The initiative has extended beyond its original location in India to 17 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.

Promoting whistleblowing

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Global Fund launched the I Speak Out Now (ISON) communications campaign in 2016. The aim was to encourage people to speak up about fraud, abuse and corruption in programs financed by the Global Fund using the OIG’s reporting and whistleblowing channels. The campaign’s tactical approach focused on:

  • training and raising awareness
  • developing sustainable tools
  • integrating campaign into risk mitigation.

The initiative sought to achieve measurable improvements in overall reporting of issues, particularly in countries and projects with historically low reporting rates. The priority was to disrupt and detect wrongdoing at the earliest opportunity to limit its impact prevent it from becoming systemic. Online forms are becoming the preferred method for making reports, although telephone hotlines are also still used in many places, showing the importance of having multiple avenues for whistleblowing.