Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams is investigating whether there are adequate protections for “reporters of wrongdoing” – commonly called whistleblowers – within the Cayman Islands government.
“At its simplest, a whistleblower … is a person who exposes wrongdoing within an organisation in the hope of stopping it,” Ms Williams said Friday. “This should and must be viewed in a constructive and positive way, and should be encouraged.
“Whether employed by government or not, what happens in government affects us all, directly or indirectly, so if a whistleblower is punished for doing the right thing, government maladministration will continue unchecked.”
Ms Williams did not make any statements regarding whether she was aware such instances had occurred.
“The scope of the investigation will be … across the entire public service, including all government entities as defined in Section 2(1) of the 2006 Complaints Commissioner Law – i.e., a government ministry, government company, government department, government portfolio, statutory board or authority … and from top-to-bottom in the hierarchy.
“Since the Cayman Islands government has publicly stated its commitment to good governance, I expect OCC investigators to receive full cooperation with this investigation, the report on which is likely to be published before the end of 2013.”
The Cayman Islands government has actually had whistleblower protection in the law since the Freedom of Information Law, 2007, came into effect in January 2009.
According to government leaders who approved the legislation at the time, civil servants who report what they believe is illegal activity, even if they make a mistake, will be protected under the Freedom of Information Law passed by the Legislative Assembly.
Section 50 of the legislation provides: “No person may be subjected to any legal, administrative or employment-related sanction, regardless of any breach of a legal or employment-related obligation, for releasing information on a wrong-doing.”
Wrong-doing is defined in the law as the commission of a criminal offence, failure to comply with a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, corruption, dishonesty or serious maladministration.
The law – which has never been tested – appears to conflict with long-standing secrecy rules for Cayman’s civil servants set out in the public servant’s code of conduct.
According to the Cayman Islands Public Servant’s Code of Conduct: “A public servant must treat all official information and any dealings with the governor, an official member (of the Legislative Assembly) or (Cabinet) minister as confidential, and, unless authorised to do so, must not give or disclose … any information about official business or anything of which he has official knowledge.”
The code of conduct is signed by all civil servants in Cayman before they accept a position with government.