Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime, News & what's on - Written by on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 15:42 - 0 Comments

SFO Confidential: whistle-blowing made easy – but will it drive self reporting?

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Last week the SFO launched ‘SFO Confidential’, a new system it said will enable workers to report concerns about bribery and corruption anonymously.  The launch was widely reported in the media.

However, the SFO have had a whistleblower hotline for some time.

Indeed on Friday at the Pinsent Masons UKCG Bribery Act breakfast Richard Alderman, Director of the SFO, confirmed that: “[the SFO] already have a number of cases where whistleblowers have approached us.”

On Friday we spoke with an SFO intelligence officer.  We asked what was different about the new system?

The SFO officer explained that the newly launched hotline had a different emphasis.  In particular he confirmed that the new hotline and online whistleblowing service was aimed at people who want to tell the SFO about serious or complex fraud or corruption on the understanding the SFO will not disclose their identity.

In contrast to the previous scheme SFO Confidential is NOT for the victims of fraud (victims of fraud should contact their local police or Action Fraud).

We were informed the SFO receive information from various sources including employees, former employees (often with axes to grind), competitors and even people who overhear others discussing the payment of bribes.

In line with many businesses Adequate Procedures we hope that employees first port of call will be their own employers whistle-blowing hotline.

However, experience to date suggests that SFO Confidential will be a useful source of information for the SFO.

On its launch SFO Director Richard Alderman said:

“I want people to come forward and tell us if they think there is fraud or corruption going on in their workplace. Company executives, staff, professional advisors, business associates of various kinds or trade competitors can talk to us in confidence. I have set up a special team to make the SFO readily accessible to whistleblowers, with trained staff sympathetic in dealing with any anxieties people might have about coming forward.  I want whistleblowers to feel comfortable about it and use SFO Confidential to help flush out fraud.”

On Friday last week speaking at the Pinsent Masons UKCG Bribery Breakfast the SFO Director issued this cautionary note:

“I know some corporations worry about whether to come and see the SFO about problems they encounter. One of the questions for them in their deliberations on this ought to be whether the SFO is approached first by the corporation or by a whistleblower.”

Take care.

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