Improving internal control mechanism through introduction of new whistle-blower protection rights within local Croatian authorities and agencies managing EU funds”
In order to fight and prevent corruption, irregularities and fraud in managing EU funds and to detect all acts of wrongdoing, it is not enough just to formally assess a control system in organizations that manage EU fund cash flows. Though formally installed, there is still a significant lack of internal control mechanism in Croatian agencies handling money of EU tax payers. It is important that we seek for alternative means of discovering loopholes that have caused or may cause emergence of various forms or irregularities and fraud within systems that distribute EU funds.
One of the most direct methods of shining the light on corruption, fraud and irregularities is whistleblowing. Unfortunately, whistleblowers commonly face retaliation in the form of harassment, firing, blacklisting, threats and even physical violence, and their disclosures are routinely ignored. In fact they should be considered the best internal control mechanism.
The agencies handling EU funds must introduce new internal rules of protecting and rewarding whistleblowers within their organizations and should establish fully independent internal control units that would handle such claims in the future.
The reason why we stress the whistleblowers as an unused internal mechanism in fighting fraud is the fact that the embezzlement of EU funds does not begin and it does not end with the final beneficiaries and partners using EU funds. It tends to bypass responsible individuals who are involved within contracting authorities, agencies and even in EU offices abroad that handle the approving of such transactions.
Transparency International works closely with whistleblower organizations and legal experts in all regions to implement and strengthen whistleblower protection laws, make sure these laws are ably put into practice, raise public awareness of the importance of whistleblowing, and to enhance the perception of the people who risk their livelihoods and sometimes their lives to expose corruption.
Transparency International Croatia believes that the individual right to freedom of expression includes the right to point out acts of wrongdoing – both in government and in private companies. Even beyond this basic right is the simple fact that people who step forward to disclose wrongdoing – particularly when EU resources are at stake – should be acknowledged and protected, not punished and ostracized.
To promote responsible whistleblowing and adequate protection of whistleblowers within organizations that serve to distribute and protect EU fund interests, it is necessary to introduce and implement in practice internal legislation within all organizations that handle EU interests and to strongly support all people who openly point out to all internal acts, individuals, cash flows etc. that may lead to or have led to or may have a character of frauds or irregularities. Whistleblowers are people who have enough courage to serve as internal protectors of EU interests within such organizations, but to directly point out to processes that may have a clear character of fraud.
Therefore, Transparency invites all players acting within the AFCOS system and who support the protection of EU funds to support building of new internal whistleblower laws that will enhance the internal control system and to lobby with agency officials to implement and enforce them.