Compliance & White Collar Crime

Whistle-blower Protection in Serbia

Whistle-blowers are often among the most important actors in the fight against corruption. But the protection given to the whistle-blowers under the current regulations gives no reason to Serbian citizens to consider reporting irregularities.

Introduction

Effec­tive pro­tec­tion of whis­tle-blow­ers encour­ages peo­ple to stand up against cor­rup­tion in their sur­round­ings and report what could not be detect­ed by the author­i­ties oth­er­wise. Ser­bia invests a lot of effort in fight against cor­rup­tion. Yet the pro­tec­tion giv­en to the whis­tle-blow­ers under the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions gives no rea­son to the Ser­bian cit­i­zens to con­sid­er report­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ties.

Some of the major cor­rup­tion affairs in Ser­bia have been report­ed by whis­tle-blow­ers. Yet, instead of pro­tec­tion, these peo­ple were exposed to severe retal­i­a­tion. One whis­tle-blow­er lost his job, remained unem­ployed for five years, and con­stant­ly received threats. Oth­er whis­tle-blow­ers who kept their jobs were exposed to such retal­i­a­tion and excom­mu­ni­ca­tion at work that they request­ed trans­fers to dif­fer­ent, even low­er posi­tions. Some were even crim­i­nal­ly pros­e­cut­ed.

Under such con­di­tions cit­i­zens will think twice before tak­ing any action against cor­rup­tion. And after think­ing it through, most will find it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to put the pub­lic inter­est before their own and the wel­fare and safe­ty of their fam­i­ly.

Legal framework

Ser­bia still does not have a sys­tem for pro­tect­ing whis­tle-blow­ers. It does not even have a law that cov­ers this area. Instead, some vague and ambigu­ous pro­vi­sions are scat­tered across dif­fer­ent laws. The most detailed reg­u­la­tion on whis­tle-blow­er pro­tec­tion is the rule­book for pro­tec­tion of a per­son who reports cor­rup­tion (Rule­book). The Rule­book has been adopt­ed by the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Agency. How­ev­er, the Agency, which is not a leg­isla­tive body, has not had much space to manoeu­vre with­in its com­pe­tence to intro­duce greater pro­tec­tion.

Inter­est­ing­ly, none of these pro­vi­sions pro­tects pri­vate sec­tor employ­ees. Only employ­ees in the pub­lic sec­tor can count on pro­tec­tion, and even then, only in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion has been crit­i­cised on many lev­els. Whis­tle-blow­er pro­tec­tion should be reg­u­lat­ed by a sep­a­rate act adopt­ed by the par­lia­ment, and not by a rule­book that lacks suf­fi­cient legal author­i­ty. Fur­ther­more, only an act adopt­ed by the par­lia­ment can pre­scribe sanc­tions for those who breach whis­tle-blow­er rights.

Whistle-blower protection under the Rulebook

Who is pro­tect­ed?

The Rule­book only applies to employ­ees in the pub­lic sec­tor. While it applies to all employ­ees in the state admin­is­tra­tion, when it comes to state enter­pris­es and pub­lic insti­tu­tions, only man­age­ment is pro­tect­ed. It is often heard that it is unlike­ly that man­age­ment would report cor­rup­tion, as those are the per­sons who are typ­i­cal­ly in a posi­tion to be involved in unlaw­ful activ­i­ties.

What are the con­di­tions for pro­tec­tion?

Whis­tle-blow­ers will be pro­tect­ed if: (i) they are pub­lic sec­tor employ­ees, (ii) they report cor­rup­tion with­in the gov­ern­ment body where they work (but not irreg­u­lar­i­ties in oth­er gov­ern­ment bod­ies), (iii) the cor­rup­tion is report­ed to the Agency (not some oth­er pub­lic author­i­ty) with a writ­ten request for pro­tec­tion, and (iv) they act in good faith.

Whis­tle-blow­ers act in good faith if they have a jus­ti­fi­able rea­son to believe that the alle­ga­tions for cor­rup­tion are true, even if, at some lat­er time, it turns out they were not true. More­over, whis­tle-blow­ers must not have any unlaw­ful or uneth­i­cal goals when fil­ing cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions. This def­i­n­i­tion has been crit­i­cised because of its ambi­gu­i­ty and pos­si­ble mis­use. Who deter­mines what is an uneth­i­cal goal, and under what cri­te­ria? The Anti-Cor­rup­tion Agency may deprive whis­tle-blow­ers pro­tec­tion at any time if it deter­mines that they are not act­ing in good faith.

What kind of pro­tec­tion is pro­vid­ed?

The Rule­book pro­vides two means of pro­tec­tion: iden­ti­ty pro­tec­tion and pro­tec­tion from retal­i­a­tion. But there should be no need for both at a time, because no one can exer­cise retal­i­a­tion against an anony­mous whis­tle-blow­er.

Whis­tle-blow­ers enjoy iden­ti­ty pro­tec­tion if they express­ly demand such pro­tec­tion. If their iden­ti­ty is then dis­closed or they waive it, then they have a right to retal­i­a­tion pro­tec­tion. Whis­tle-blow­ers are pro­tect­ed from employ­er retal­i­a­tion in two ways: no change of employ­ment sta­tus and no change of employ­ment con­di­tions against their will.

This includes any act against whis­tle-blow­ers that leads to phys­i­cal or psy­cho­log­i­cal molesta­tion, ter­mi­na­tion of employ­ment, expo­sure to dis­ci­pli­nary pro­ce­dures, trans­fer to dif­fer­ent work­ing place, pre­vent­ing from advance­ment, etc., as well as seri­ous threats that any of these mea­sures will be under­tak­en. It is irrel­e­vant whether these mea­sures are pro­voked by the whis­tle-blow­ers’ reports or some oth­er facts or cir­cum­stances. Pro­tec­tion is giv­en for up to two years.

Sanc­tions in case of retal­i­a­tion

The only sanc­tion is that the name of the insti­tu­tion and the offi­cial in charge exer­cis­ing retal­i­a­tion against the whis­tle-blow­er will be pub­lished on the spe­cial annu­al list pre­pared by the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Agency. The Rule­book could not pre­scribe any oth­er sanc­tion because it is the parliament’s com­pe­tence.

Next steps

Whis­tle-blow­er pro­tec­tion in Ser­bia has been crit­i­cised for years. The gov­ern­ment has recent­ly appoint­ed a com­mis­sion to pre­pare a new act, the first draft of which is expect­ed by the end of 2013, and adop­tion in the first half of 2014 after pub­lic dis­cus­sion. It is expect­ed that the act will pro­vide sound and reli­able pro­tec­tion for whis­tle-blow­ers in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor. It is yet to be seen if the new act will meet the high expec­ta­tions the pub­lic has placed in the com­mis­sion. And after the law is adopt­ed, a new bat­tle will start: imple­men­ta­tion of the new rules in prac­tice.

Some of the biggest corruption affairs in Serbia have been reported by whistle-blowers. But instead of protection, these people were exposed to severe retaliation.

Zaštita uzbunjivača u Srbiji

Uzbunjivači (whistle-blowers) su često među najvažnijim akterima u borbi protiv korupcije. Ali zaštita koja se trenutno pruža uzbunjivačima u skladu sa aktuelnim propisima ne daje građanima Srbije nikakav podsticaj da prijavljuju nepravilnosti.

Uvod

Delotvor­na zašti­ta uzbun­ji­vača pod­stiče ljude da se suprot­stave korup­ci­ji u svo­joj okoli­ni i pri­jave povrede koje nadležni organi inače ne bi mogli dru­gači­je otkri­ti. Srbi­ja ulaže velike napore u bor­bu pro­tiv korup­ci­je. Ali zašti­ta koja se trenut­no pruža uzbun­ji­vači­ma u skladu sa aktuel­nim propisi­ma ne daje građan­i­ma Srbi­je nikakav pod­sti­caj da pri­javlju­ju nepravil­nos­ti.

Neke od najvećih korup­ci­jskih afera u Srbi­ji pri­jav­ili su upra­vo uzbun­ji­vači. Ali umesto da budu zaštićene, te osobe su bile izložene odmaz­di. Jedan uzbun­ji­vač je ostao bez posla, bio neza­poslen još pet god­i­na i dobi­jao preteće poruke. Ostali uzbun­ji­vači, koji nisu otpušteni, izloženi su takvoj odmaz­di i izopštenos­ti na poslu, da su zahte­vali pre­meš­taj na dru­ga, pa čak i niža rad­na mes­ta. Neki od njih su čak i kriv­ično gonjeni.

Pod takvim uslovi­ma, građanin će dobro razmis­li­ti pre nego što se odluči da pre­duzme bilo kakve korake u bor­bi pro­tiv korup­ci­je. Ali i kada razmis­le o tome, mnogi­ma će biti veo­ma teško da interes javnos­ti stave ispred sop­stvenog intere­sa i dobro­biti i bezbed­nos­ti svo­jih porod­i­ca.

Zakonski okvir

Srbi­ja još uvek nema sis­tem za zašti­tu uzbun­ji­vača. Ne pos­to­ji čak ni zakon koji reg­uliše ovu oblast. Umesto toga, pos­to­je tek neo­dređene i dvos­mis­lene odredbe koje se nalaze u različitim zakon­i­ma. Najde­taljni­ji propis o zašti­ti uzbun­ji­vača je Pravil­nik o zašti­ti lica koje pri­javi sum­n­ju na korup­ci­ju (Pravil­nik). Pravil­nik je usvo­ji­la Agen­ci­ja za bor­bu pro­tiv korup­ci­je. Ali Agen­ci­ja, koja nije zakon­o­davno telo, nije imala mno­go pros­to­ra za manevrisan­je u okviru svo­jih ovlašćen­ja kako bi uvela viši nivo zaštite.

Zan­imlji­vo je to da nijed­na od ovih odred­a­ba ne šti­ti zapos­lene u pri­vat­nom sek­toru. Na zašti­tu mogu raču­nati samo zaposleni u javnom sek­toru, pa čak i onda samo pod određen­im uslovi­ma.

Aktuel­na situaci­ja je pred­met kri­tike na više nivoa. Zašti­ta uzbun­ji­vača tre­ba da bude reg­ulisana poseb­n­im zakonom koji će usvo­ji­ti Nar­o­d­na skupšti­na, a ne pravil­nikom koji nema adek­vatan pravni autoritet. Osim toga, samo zakon koji usvo­ji Nar­o­d­na skupšti­na može propisati sankci­je za one koji krše pra­va uzbun­ji­vača.

Zaštita uzbunjivača u skladu sa Pravilnikom

Ko ima pra­vo na zašti­tu?

Pravil­nik se odnosi samo na zapos­lene u javnom sek­toru. Među­tim, dok se Pravil­nik odnosi na sve zapos­lene u državnoj admin­is­traciji, kada je reč o državn­im pre­duzeći­ma i ustanova­ma, pra­vo na zašti­tu ima samo rukovod­st­vo. Često se čuje komen­tar da je malo verovat­no da rukovod­st­vo pri­javi sum­n­ju na korup­ci­ju, poš­to su upra­vo rukovo­di­o­ci najčešće u situaci­ja­ma da učestvu­ju u neza­konitim rad­n­ja­ma.

Koji su uslovi za pružan­je zaštite?

Uzbun­ji­vač ima pra­vo na zašti­tu: (i) ako je zaposlen u javnom sek­toru, (ii) ako pri­javi sum­n­ju na korup­ci­ju u državnom organu u kojem je zaposlen (ali ne i nepravil­nos­ti u drugim državn­im organ­i­ma), (iii) ako je sum­n­ja na korup­ci­ju pri­javl­je­na Agen­ci­ji (ali ne i nekom dru­gom organu javne vlasti) uz pisani zahtev za pružan­je zaštite, i (iv) ako pos­tu­pa u dobroj veri.

Uzbun­ji­vač pos­tu­pa u dobroj veri ako ima oprav­danog razlo­ga da veru­je da su infor­ma­ci­je koje razotkri­va isti­nite, čak i ako se kas­ni­je ustanovi suprot­no. Osim toga, uzbun­ji­vač ne sme imati neza­konit ili neetič­ki cilj kada razotkri­va infor­ma­ci­je o sum­n­ji na korup­ci­ju. Ova defini­ci­ja je bila pred­met kri­tike zbog svo­je dvos­mis­lenos­ti i moguće zloupotrebe. Ko određu­je šta je neetič­ki cilj, i na osnovu kojih kri­ter­i­ju­ma? Agen­ci­ja za bor­bu pro­tiv korup­ci­je može u bilo kom trenutku liši­ti uzbun­ji­vača zaštite ako utvr­di da on nije pos­tu­pao u dobroj veri.

Kak­va vrs­ta zaštite je obezbeđe­na?

Pravil­nik pred­viđa dve vrste zaštite: zašti­tu iden­tite­ta i zašti­tu od odmazde. Među­tim, ne bi tre­ba­lo da obe vrste zaštite pos­to­je istovre­meno, poš­to odmaz­da pro­tiv anon­imnog uzbun­ji­vača nije moguća.

Agen­ci­ja šti­ti anon­im­nost samo onog uzbun­ji­vača koji izriči­to traži tu vrstu zaštite. U sluča­ju da uzbun­ji­vač ima saz­nan­ja da mu je iden­titet razotkriv­en, ili odus­tane od zaštite anon­im­nos­ti, aktivi­ra se meh­a­nizam zaštite od odmazde. Zašti­ta uzbun­ji­vača od odmazde poslo­davca pred­viđa zabranu izri­can­ja mera koje nepo­voljno utiču na rad­no-pravni sta­tus i radne uslove pro­tiv nje­gove vol­je.

To obuh­va­ta svako čin­jen­je pre­ma uzbun­ji­vaču koje dovo­di do psi­hičkog ili fiz­ičkog uzne­mi­ra­van­ja, otkaza ugov­o­ra o radu, pokre­tan­ja dis­ci­plin­skog pos­tup­ka, pre­meš­ta­ja na niže rad­no mesto, zadrža­van­ja u napre­dovan­ju itd, kao i ozbiljne i stvarne pret­nje da će biti pre­duze­ta bilo koja od nave­denih mera. Irele­vant­no je da li su te mere iza­z­vane pri­javom uzbun­ji­vača ili drugim čin­jeni­ca­ma i okol­nos­ti­ma. Zašti­ta se pruža u peri­o­du od najviše dve godine.

Odgov­ornost rukovo­di­o­ca za odmaz­du

Jed­i­na sankci­ja je ta da Agen­ci­ja za bor­bu pro­tiv korup­ci­je javno objavlju­je naziv organa javne vlasti i rukovo­di­o­ca koji vrši odmaz­du pre­ma uzbun­ji­vaču na poseb­noj godišn­joj listi. Pravil­nik nije mogao da propiše nikakve druge sankci­je, poš­to su ove u nadležnos­ti Nar­o­dne skupš­tine.

Budući koraci

Zašti­ta uzbun­ji­vača u Srbi­ji je već god­i­na­ma pred­met kri­tike. Vla­da je nedavno imen­o­vala komisi­ju zaduženu za sačin­ja­van­je novog zakona, čiji se prvi nacrt očeku­je do kra­ja 2013. godine, a usva­jan­je u prvoj polovi­ni 2014. godine, nakon održane javne rasprave. Očeku­je se da zakon propiše ozbiljnu i pouz­danu zašti­tu uzbun­ji­vača kako u javnom, tako i u pri­vat­nom sek­toru. Osta­je da se vidi da li će novi zakon ispuni­ti viso­ka očeki­van­ja koja javnost ima od komisi­je. A kada zakon bude usvo­jen, pred­sto­ji nova bor­ba: pri­me­na novih prav­i­la u prak­si.

Neke od najvećih korupcijskih afera u Srbiji prijavili su upravo uzbunjivači. Ali umesto da budu zaštićene, te osobe su bili izložene odmazdi.