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Whistleblowing is a high priority in Malaysian organisations

Whistleblowing challenges in Asia Pacific, including Malaysia, predominantly relate to employees’ mindset and awareness, as indicated by Deloitte’s Oo Yang Ping. Malaysian respondents highlighted concerns over the independence of reporting, with 29% of organizations not assessing whistleblowing program effectiveness. Awareness, trust, and board involvement are crucial for effective programme.



MALAYSIA: The top three whistleblowing challenges faced by organisations across Asia Pacific and Malaysia are related to employees’ mindsets and awareness.

This is according to Deloitte Asia Pacific conduct watch leader Oo Yang Ping.Oo said 80% of Malaysian respondents, in a recent whistleblowing report by Deloitte Asia Pacific, cited that their challenge remains concerns by employees over the independence of the reporting process.

“A significant proportion of organisations in Malaysia (29%) did not measure the effectiveness of their whistleblowing programme.

“Out of those which did, 32% relied solely on the number of reports received to measure effectiveness,” said Oo who is also Deloitte Malaysia’s forensic leader.

In a statement on Monday (2 Aug), he said it was important to shift to a more holistic view, to understand overall levels of awareness and trust in any whistleblowing programme, and the willingness of individuals to come forward.

“The importance of robust whistleblowing programmes and the role of whistleblowers can no longer be ignored as organisations continue to navigate the labyrinth of today’s business landscape,” he said.

In Malaysia, more than half of the survey respondents indicated that whistleblowing is a high priority in their organisations, with improving organisational culture, detecting fraud and other misconduct, and encouraging positive and transparent working environments cited as the top three purposes of whistleblowing programs as their organisations. This sentiment was similarly echoed across the Asia Pacific.

“Close to 70% of Malaysian respondents also indicated that their board of directors and board committees have overall responsibility for the whistleblowing programme in their organisations, as compared to our neighbours (Only 44% of respondents across Asia Pacific indicated that responsibility lies with their board of directors and board committees).

“It is encouraging to note that board members and senior management in Malaysia feel that as guardians and stewards of their organisations, the onus is on them to spearhead efforts on this front, driving towards desired change,” he said.

According to the report entitled ‘2023 Asia Pacific Conduct Watch Survey’, the most common whistleblowing challenges cited by respondents are related to employee awareness and concerns, indicating that more needs to be done to engage internally with employees through communication and training.

“Concerns around independence of the reporting process, lack of action on cases, and fear of retaliation may point to deeper issues surrounding organisational culture and would require greater involvement from senior management and the board to understand and address.

“While data security did not appear to be a common challenge cited by respondents, this issue is likely to become more prominent due to increasing cyber threats and corresponding data protection legislation,” it said.

Another challenge is the misuse of whistleblowing channels for trivial matters that may be more suitably addressed through other avenues.

“This can be addressed in part by regular training and communication about whistleblowing and other channels available.

“However, while so-called ‘noise’ can be a distraction from ‘real’ whistleblowing disclosures, it is also important that employees feel comfortable to come forward.

“There are also instances where seemingly trivial disclosures indicate a pattern of behaviour of more serious underlying issues, which could significantly impact employee morale or the organisation’s reputation,” it said.

Another challenge is insufficient information provided through whistleblowing channels, especially when the whistleblower remains anonymous, which hampers any subsequent investigation.

“The ability to communicate with a whistleblower, even (or maybe especially) when anonymous, is critical and can be enhanced by having a clear transparent process and a means of anonymous communication,” it said.

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