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Whistleblowers New online platform for anonymous tip-offs

Swiss parliamentarians Paul Rechsteiner, left, and Thomas Minder, right, debate protections for whistleblowers in 2014

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s Federal Audit Office has after six years of experimenting introduced a new online platform to enlist the help of the public and federal employees in reporting suspected abuses.

The whistleblowing platform announced on Thursday – available in German, French and Italian online at whistleblowing.admin.chexternal link – lets federal employees and taxpayers connect through a secure channel.

“Its purpose: to exchange information anonymously, independently and securely between employees, suppliers, taxpayers and anyone who wants to improve the efficiency of the administration and fight fraud and corruption,” the audit officeexternal link said in a statement on Thursday.

But the vast majority of the tips come from the public. Last year, 60% came from the public while 36% came from federal employees. The other 4% were from individuals who were not identified either way.

It remains to be seen what effect the online platform might have on the incidence of reporting. Over the past six years, the anonymous tips received have numbered in the dozens, ranging from a low of 61 in 2011 to a high of 87 in 2012. There were 70 in 2013, 82 in 2014, 64 in 2015 and 78 in 2016.

Prevention

Under Swiss law, suspected irregularities can be reported without any evidence required. Financial authorities pledge to treat all information confidentially and to take the time to review tips with care and serious consideration. And whistleblowers will be protected, the office says.

“The only condition is that the trust between the employee and the employer should not be disturbed,” it addsexternal link. “In addition, the duty of employees to act with respect to the employer should not be infringed, for example, by referring to the press.”

The audit office has been collecting whistleblowing information from individuals or federal employees for years. In 2011, a law took effect requiring federal employees to tell criminal prosecutors, their bosses or the audit office about “any offence or ex officio crime” they may know about or suspect.

“They also have the right to report any other irregularities that have been identified or come to their attention in their work,” the audit officeexternal link says, adding that “this information allows auditors to identify weaknesses in the organisation and work processes”.

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