This post was written by Simon Hart.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has stepped up its attempts to persuade employees and professional advisors to blow the whistle on fraudulent or corrupt practices within the organisations they serve. The SFO has announced a new “SFO Confidential” service that allows whistleblowers to report concerns either by phone to a dedicated team of SFO operatives, or by using an online service.
The SFO’s Director, Richard Alderman, has said that the SFO operatives are trained in dealing with the anxieties that many whistleblowers have when coming forward to report perceived wrongdoing. The SFO has given assurances that the identities of those who blow the whistle will be protected, and reporting can be done anonymously if desired.
To some degree, the new service is the re-packaging of a service that has always existed. It is not new for the SFO to invite people to call them if they have information relating to fraud or corruption. Whistleblowing has always been one of the main ways that the SFO identifies matters for investigation. However, the current initiative is a clear attempt by the SFO to encourage a greater degree of whistleblowing by recognising the anxieties that whistleblowers may have when picking up the phone.
The strategy of promoting whistleblowing is consistent with the SFO’s attempt over the past 12 months to raise its profile and ram home the anti-corruption message it has developed around the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010. Whether “SFO Confidential” gives rise to more, or more effective, whistleblowing is open to debate. Only the SFO will ever know