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Deloitte India Survey on the
effectiveness of corporate
whistleblowing mechanisms
32
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Introduction
Over seven years ago the Companies
Act, 2013, mandated the need for setting
up vigil mechanisms (among listed
companies and other specific classes
of companies) to report corporate
malpractice, fraud, misconduct and
non-compliance. But where has
corporate India reached in its efforts to
successfully implement whistleblowing
mechanisms? Are employees and other
stakeholder comfortable using these
channels to report their concerns? Have
these channels helped to reduce losses
due to frauds and improve stakeholder
confidence in the management? To
address these questions Deloitte’s
Forensic practice in India undertook
the second edition of its whistleblowing
survey. (The first edition, launched
in 2014, focussed on the corporate
sentiment towards developing whistle-
blower mechanisms in light of the
then recently passed provision in the
Companies, Act, 2013).
While many organisations have
implemented a whistleblowing
mechanism, our survey findings indicate
that there has not been a significant
investment in the implementation of
these, and there is a lack of awareness
as well. Consequently, there is limited
confidence in the confidentiality of
the mechanism and transparency on
the actions taken by the company to
address the complaints received, hence
stakeholders are reluctant to come
forward and voice their concerns. Due to
these challenges smaller corporations are
still debating the basic need to set up a
whistleblowing mechanism.
The survey findings indicate three areas
of development that corporates can
consider in order to increase stakeholder
confidence in the whistleblowing
mechanisms implemented by the
company.
	• Building a more robust framework
around the whistle-blower mechanism
to actively address all complaints
received
	• Increasing training programmes to build
awareness, and stakeholder trust in
existing whistleblowing mechanisms
	• Communicating to employees the
actions taken towards whistle-blower
complaints received
Since the time our survey concluded,
the world has experienced the COVID-19
pandemic resulting in large scale remote
working arrangements. However, despite
the change in location of work, many of
the ethical dilemmas and policy violations
that would require to be reported via
whistleblower programmes continue to
persist. Organisations which invested
in robust whistleblowing programmes
have been able to address these issues.
Interestingly, many large organisations
in countries with more mature
whistleblower programmes have scaled
up their operations during the COVID-19
pandemic. They have also begun utilising
their whistleblower infrastructure to
provide a COVID-19 helpline to resolve
employee queries and provide guidance
to company policies for operations. In
some cases updates on employee health
and well-being have also been gathered
through this mechanism.
I hope that this survey report will help
you make your existing whistleblowing
programmes robust. I also hope it will
inspire many of you to start thinking
of vigil mechanisms as a powerful tool
for reporting violations and enhancing
corporate governance.
Regards,
Nikhil Bedi,
Partner and Leader – Forensic,
Financial Advisory, Deloitte India
4
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Nearly half of the respondents indicated that the
custodian of their organisation’s whistleblowing
programme was a committee such as the Ethics
Committee, Audit Committee or the Board. The rest
indicated that single individuals - like the Head of HR or
Compliance or Internal Audit – were the custodians.
Less than
33 percent
of respondents indicated
having an annual training
programme and less than
40 percent
run periodic campaigns
or newsletters to increase
awareness about their
whistleblowing mechanism
Organisations largely only
provide one channel to report
concerns.
Only 33 percent
of respondents said they
provided three or more
channels in their whistleblowing
mechanism, including email, live
voice answering and voicemail
Almost 75 percent of the respondents
indicated not using any case management system to track
and monitor all complaints received and communicate the
ongoing status of any associated investigations.
About 47 percent of respondents
indicated investing less than INR 5 lakhs annually
on their whistleblowing mechanism. Over two–third
of all respondents indicated relying partly or
completely on an in-house operated programme
About 30 percent of respondents
indicated not using a Whistleblower Policy document
to provide guidance to employees on the whistle-
blower programme
About 41 percentof respondents have implemented or enhanced their
whistle-blower mechanism after the legislation was passed.
About 12.5 percentindicated that they were yet to implement a structured
whistleblowing mechanism
Section 1:
Companies have implemented
whistleblowing programmes, but
how robust are these?
Over 50 percent of our survey respondents comprised
custodians of whistleblowing programmes in
organisations. This section has exclusively used their
responses to derive insights.
5
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
76
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Companies face an ambiguity on the detailed requirements of what could constitute an adequate vigil mechanism to detect
corporate fraud and misconduct. Companies have therefore implemented whistle-blower mechanisms of varied complexities
based on their discretion. In our experience many small companies where the legislation is not applicable have completely avoided
setting up a formal vigil mechanism. This situation appears to have posed a quandary for organisations, as substantiated by the
survey results –
In recent times major corporate frauds have been exposed in the public domain due to whistle-blower complaints received, which
has put the spotlight back on these mechanisms. Given the importance of such platforms in exposing corporate frauds, it remains to
be seen if momentum for the enhancement of whistle-blower mechanisms is created.
Globally, the presence of whistleblowing
programmes has resulted in 50 percent lesser
value of fraud loss1
. However, in India there is
a deficit of case studies that can demonstrate a
similar direct correlation between the presence
of such programmes, the quantum of fraud, and
reputational losses. Unless organisations in India
are encouraged to share their success stories,
whistleblowing programmes will not be taken
seriously.
The limited investments in whistleblowing
programmes is a clear indicator that it may exist
to only satisfy a regulatory requirement. As a
consequence, organisations run the risk of ignoring
genuine complaints that such a mechanism
may not be equipped to capture and this is
detrimental to the interest of the organisation.
In our experience, the investments towards such
programmes should be proportionate to the
quantum of fraud risks perceived. The ACFE Report
indicates that globally organisations lose upto
five percent of their revenues to fraud, with small
organisations losing twice as much as large ones.
1
Source: ACFE Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 2018 (‘ACFE Report’)
Deloitte perspective
Inability to ascertain the effectiveness
of the programme
Low investments towards these
programmes
Section 2:
Organisations that have invested
in annual training programmes
and awareness campaigns have
seen greater success from whistle-
blower programmes
Over 50 percent of our survey respondents comprised
custodians of whistleblowing programmes in
organisations. This section has exclusively used their
responses to derive insights.
9
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Respondents representing companies with annual
trainings and dedicated internal campaigns
indicated receiving a higher number of complaints,
dominated by ethical issues such as bribery and
corruption or sexual harassment. These complaints
formed over 50 percent of all
investigations undertaken by the organisation.
Over 60%of respondents believe that their whistleblowing programmes have increased employee
confidence in the management and bolstered management sensitivity and intent to address fraud and
noncompliance-related issues
Survey results indicate that organisations with reasonably well structured mechanisms tend to see positive results – higher numbers
of relevant disclosures, higher proportion of fraudulent issues highlighted, investigations taken to logical conclusions, strengthening
of internal controls and reduction in losses. Yet, there remain issues that need to be addressed if these programmes are to become
comparable with global whistleblowing programmes.
In our experience, we have observed channels
inundated with complaints pertaining to personal
grievances (with peers, poor performance
reviews or appraisals) and complaints about
office properties (faulty hardware, dysfunctional
printers, etc.). While these are operational
issues that need to be addressed, they also end
up consuming significant management time.
Over time, an abundance of such issues on the
whistleblowing channel can result in it being
shut down or abandoned. To tackle the influx of
complaints, global organisations tend to outsource
the hotline channel management to third parties,
who may sift through responses and identify
the right team that can address this. It is also
important therefore to devise and communicate
the scope of the whistle-blower policy and what
constitutes a relevant disclosure.
A successful whistleblowing programme needs
to generate awareness on the type of issues that
can be reported through the mechanism and
the distinction between ethical violations and
corporate malpractices, from human resource
matters and administrative issues. Such training
can include various risks and schemes which could
indicate corporate malpractices such as conflict
of interest, bribery, kickbacks, embezzlement of
funds, etc.
Deloitte perspective
Addressing frivolous complaints Emphasis on training
8
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Further, personal grievances dominated
the type of complaints reported through
the whistleblowing channels
While over
35 percent
of respondents indicated seeing
a reduction in losses due to early
detection of fraudulent practices,
it is interesting to note that almost
60 percent of respondents mentioned
receiving less than 10 complaints a year
1110
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Nearly 45 percent of respondents were
partially or completely unaware of the whistle-blower
policy and mechanism in their organisation and
48 percentindicated they had not
received any formal training on the policy.
Section 3:
Employee confidence in
whistleblowing programmes
remains low
A little less than 50 percent of our survey respondents
comprised of working professionals who responded
to a different set of questions on the effectiveness of
whistleblowing channels. This section has exclusively used
their responses to derive insights.
Uncertainty over how complaints
are treated in general and if their
complaints would be addressed
(about 50 percent
of respondents)
Fears over confidentiality around handling
complaints (about two-thirds
of respondents)
Concerns around who receives and
processes complaints (about
one-thirdof respondents)
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
11
Consequently, a similar percentage of respondents indicated reservations about
reporting their concerns via a whistleblowing channel.
Some of these reservations were:
45%
48%
1312
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
A true measure of success of a whistle-blower mechanism is employee willingness to use it to report violations or potential fraud.
It is also critical that employees are made aware of the nature of disclosures that a whistle-blower mechanism is meant for,
and perhaps the kind of additional information that makes investigation of a disclosure effective; e.g. indicators of an incident,
identity of counterparties, existence of documentary evidence, etc. Survey results indicate that this aspect remains a challenge for
organisations.
In our experience, organisations can consider adopting the following best practices to address employee concerns.
Organisations can communicate
specific instances where a
whistle-blower complaint
led to an investigation and
subsequently appropriate
action was taken against those
involved in the malpractices.
Specifically, it must also
highlight how the whistle-
blower was treated/ protected
throughout the process. Not
communicating these aspects of
the whistleblowing programme
can lead to misinformation and
false propaganda.
Leading organisations have
instituted ethics champions
among employees who reinforce
the message of ethical practices
and encourage their colleagues
to use the whistleblowing
hotline. This can help improve
the perception around
whistleblowing programmes.
Many large organisations are
beginning to publicly reward
and recognise their staff
for demonstrating ethical
behaviours. While one may
argue that such an award
isn’t necessary, in the current
climate of ethical dilemma and
malpractice, it can help put the
spotlight on ethical behaviours
and whistleblowing.
Deloitte perspective
Discuss how complaints
are handled
Co-opt employees to
champion the programme
Recognising ethical
behaviours
Building a robust
Whistleblower Programme
Nearly 40 percent of all corporate
fraud, misconduct and malpractice is
detected by tips globally. Organisations
with whistleblowing channels detect
fraud more often than those without
(46 percent of cases, as opposed to
30 percent)2
. A robust whistleblowing
channel should ideally act as the first
source that individuals can access to
report suspicious conduct/transactions.
However, several factors can pose
as roadblocks. Cultural skepticism
of whistleblowing in general, limited
clarity on what issues can be reported
through such channels, and lack of
trust due to limited knowledge of what
happens to complaints received. Unless
organisations actively address these
issues, a whistleblower channel is likely to
remain ineffective.
2
Source: ACFE Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 2018
1514
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
In our experience we have noted that effective whistleblower programmes tend to
have the following features:
A whistle-blower policy document
which provides guidance on the
mechanism (including scope,
responsibilities of the complainant
and the ethics committee etc.)
and provides emphasis on the
protection (and non-retaliation) for
whistleblowers
An independent service provider
who confidentially receives all the
complaints, maintains a record
of all complaints received and
provides any available feedback to
the whistleblower
Mandatory annual training to
staff and third parties on the
programme
Access to multiple channels such
as live answering calls, voicemails,
email, etc. to report the complaints
An agile complaint review
mechanism which evaluates all
complaints and determines the
necessary course of action within a
reasonable period of time
Extending the programme to third
parties, such as vendors, business
partners and contract staff
A committee of ombudspersons
comprised of different department
heads who are responsible for
overseeing the programme
and independently reviewing
all complaints received in the
mechanism
A dedicated budget to ensure
smooth functioning and wide
coverage of the programme
01
04
07
02
05
08
03
06
The future of whistleblower
programmes in India
Effective whistle-blower programmes can
be a foundation for establishing a level
playing field, both within and outside
the company, and upholding corporate
governance norms. In the last couple
of decades, several organisations in
developed nations have demonstrated
their commitment to developing strong
whistle-blower mechanisms. Legislative
measures have also supported the
need for disclosures around fraud
and malpractice alongside providing
protection to whistleblowers. In the
developing world, as more and more
millennials and younger generations
are exposed to a global education that
places emphasis on fair play and puts the
corporation above personal interests,
we see organisations in these countries
embark on a path to developing robust
whistleblowing programmes. In India
a significant portion of the working
class today is far more outspoken and
far less tolerant of ambiguities and
malpractice. Organisations can rely on
them to build an ethical culture and
promote whistleblowing as an act of
self-defense against forces that endanger
organisational reputation.
From an infrastructure standpoint, to
ensure the objectivity of whistleblowing
programmes, organisations can
use software to record and manage
complaints. This way, issues can be
addressed on time and communicated
back to whistleblowers. Technology can
also be leveraged to manage multiple
channels for reporting complaints. From
a regulatory standpoint, India lacks a
specific protection for whistleblowers.
However, the Government of India’s
Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment)
Bill, 2015, addresses protection for
whistle-blowers in public interest
disclosures against acts of corruption,
wilful misuse of power or discretion, or
criminal offences by public servants. In
time, one can expect the coverage of the
Bill to be expanded to include private
sector malpractice and fraud, as is the
case in several developed countries.
Corporate protection to whistle-blowers
would significantly boost whistle-blower
confidence.
While the future looks promising for
whistleblowing programmes, they can
still be derailed by one factor – the
perception of potential whistle-blowers
that their organisations lack seriousness
in addressing complaints. In the last few
years whistleblowers have taken to social
media to highlight cases of malpractice
and misconduct as they felt the involved
organisations did not demonstrate the
necessary seriousness in addressing
them. Unfortunately, the repercussions
of social media exposé have been severe
for all involved parties – the organisation,
complainant, and the accused. In
light of this, organisations need to go
beyond stating their intent, and clearly
demonstrate results to all stakeholders.
1716
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
Perspectives from
South East Asia
Singapore
This section has been authored by Jarrod Baker, Partner
with our Singapore practice. Views expressed should not
be attributed to Deloitte India.
Corporate whistleblowing landscape
The Code of Corporate Governance
requires companies listed on the
Singapore Exchange (SGX) to publicly
disclose and clearly communicate to
employees, the existence of a whistle-
blowing policy and the procedures
whereby concerns can be raised.
Whilst many larger companies adopt a
whistle-blowing policy and associated
procedures, smaller private companies
tend to lack formal whistle-blowing
mechanisms due to resource constraints.
In our experience, corporate whistle-
blowing is most commonly handled
internally through an individual
company’s whistle-blowing mechanism,
which usually includes having a whistle-
blowing policy and reporting channels in
place.
Best practices currently followed
The Singapore Institute of Directors,
which is the national association
of company directors in Singapore,
developed a statement of good practice
(SGP) on whistle-blowing policies, which
details best practices around whistle-
blowing reporting mechanisms. The SGP
recommends the following elements:
	• 24 hours access, 365 days per year;
	• Multi-lingual capability, particularly for
operations in foreign locations;
	• 	Multiple communication channels, e.g.
hotline, web, email, facsimile and post;
	• 	Ability or mechanism to provide
feedback to the whistle-blower even if
they are anonymous; and
	• 	An outsourced solution as the
mechanism is independent of
management (deemed to give potential
whistle-blowers a greater sense of
transparency and commitment to do
something about the matters reported).
Many listed companies and government
agencies have whistle-blowing
mechanisms that adopt these best
practices.
Legislation and Regulation
Singapore does not have a universal
legislation in place for whistle-blowing.
Instead, the city-state draws upon a
variety of different legislations to provide
protection for a targeted group of
whistle-blowers including corruption and
drug related complainants. Examples of
such legislative protection is set out in the
Prevention of Corruption Act whereby,
Section 36 of the Act provides protection
by mandating confidentiality of a whistle-
blower’s identity. Similarly, Section 23
of the Misuse of Drugs Act, provides
the same confidentiality protection for
whistle-blowers.
Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX
RegCo), which is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of SGX, undertakes all frontline
regulatory functions on behalf of SGX and
its regulated subsidiaries. In late 2019,
SGX RegCo, set up a whistle-blowing
office to provide a formal whistle-blowing
channel to ensure confidentiality of
reports and robustness of process.
The whistle-blowing office serves as
the primary department for the receipt,
assessment and management of all
whistleblowing allegations against SGX
listed companies.
Overall, existing whistle-blower
legislation in Singapore provides limited
protection as it only covers a targeted
group of whistle-blowers. Concerns have
been raised by some organisations and
individuals that the absence of general
whistle-blowing legislation inadvertently
allows groups of whistle-blowers to fall
through the gaps, leaving whistle-blowers
of workplace issues such as fraud and
misconduct potentially vulnerable to
retaliation for making such reports.
SGX RegCo Leads the Charge
To provide greater reassurance and
encourage reporting by whistle-blowers,
in February 2020, SGX RegCo announced
that it intends to enact into its listing
rules, a whistle-blowing policy that would
require all SGX listed companies to
ensure confidentiality, and no retaliation
against whistle-blowers. In this regard,
SGX RegCo is looking to consult the
market in June 2020 and thereafter
enact the whistle-blowing policy by the
end of 2020.
18
Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
About the survey
This survey report has been developed
on the basis of responses received to
a questionnaire that we circulated to
leading CXOs and working professionals
across all major sectors and
organisations, in December 2019 and
January 2020 . The survey saw a total of
218 responses, of which over half of them
identified themselves as custodians of
the whistleblowing programmes in their
organisations.
The response rate to questions varies
and not all respondents have answered
all questions in the survey. Each statistic
used in this report is derived from the
number of responses to that question
and must not be considered consistent
across the report. For multiple choice
questions and priority based questions,
the weighted average of responses for
that question has been used to derive the
statistics.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Darpan More and Sushil Sawant for their efforts in giving this
survey the desired shape.
We would also like to thank our Information Technology and Brand and
Communications teams, and the Quality and Risk team at Financial Advisory Services,
for supporting us with this document.
About Deloitte’s Forensic
practice in India
Deloitte’s Forensic practice in India helps
organisations protect their brand and
reputation through proactive advice
on their exposure to fraud, corruption,
noncompliance, misconduct and other
future business risk issues. The practice
also helps clients react quickly and
confidently in a crisis, investigation or
dispute scenario. Practitioners have
extensive experience investigating
whistle-blower complaints and working
with custodians to develop robust
redressal mechanisms and associated
policies.
We use our global network, deep industry
experience and advanced analytical
technology to understand and resolve/
deal with all such issues. The team
comprises of CAs, MBAs, CFEs, forensic
accountants, lawyers, investigative
journalists, economists, professionals
with law enforcement experience,
computer forensic and data analytics
specialists and engineers, to name a
few, who bring in diverse skill sets to the
practice.
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK
private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms,
and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally
separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”)
does not provide services to clients. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a
more detailed description of DTTL and its member firms.
This material is prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP (DTTILLP).
This material (including any information contained in it) is intended to provide
general information on a particular subject(s) and is not an exhaustive
treatment of such subject(s) or a substitute to obtaining professional
services or advice. This material may contain information sourced from
publicly available information or other third party sources. DTTILLP does not
independently verify any such sources and is not responsible for any loss
whatsoever caused due to reliance placed on information sourced from such
sources. None of DTTILLP, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, its member
firms, or their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte Network”) is, by means
of this material, rendering any kind of investment, legal or other professional
advice or services. You should consult a relevant professional for these kind
of services. This material or information is not intended to be relied upon as
the sole basis for any decision which may affect you or your business. Before
making any decision or taking any action that might affect your personal
finances or business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser. No
entity in the Deloitte Network shall be responsible for any loss whatsoever
sustained by any person or entity by reason of access to, use of or reliance on,
this material. By using this material or any information contained in it, the user
accepts this entire notice and terms of use.
©2020 Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP. Member of Deloitte Touche
Tohmatsu Limited
Key contacts
Nikhil Bedi
Partner and Leader - Forensic
Financial Advisory
nikhilbedi@deloitte.com
Rajat Vig
Partner - Forensic
Financial Advisory
rajatvig@deloitte.com
Jayant Saran
Partner - Forensic
Financial Advisory
jsaran@deloitte.com
Zubin Dastur
Director Forensic
Financial Advisory
zdastur@deloitte.com

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Deloitte India Survey

  • 1. Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
  • 2. 32 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Introduction Over seven years ago the Companies Act, 2013, mandated the need for setting up vigil mechanisms (among listed companies and other specific classes of companies) to report corporate malpractice, fraud, misconduct and non-compliance. But where has corporate India reached in its efforts to successfully implement whistleblowing mechanisms? Are employees and other stakeholder comfortable using these channels to report their concerns? Have these channels helped to reduce losses due to frauds and improve stakeholder confidence in the management? To address these questions Deloitte’s Forensic practice in India undertook the second edition of its whistleblowing survey. (The first edition, launched in 2014, focussed on the corporate sentiment towards developing whistle- blower mechanisms in light of the then recently passed provision in the Companies, Act, 2013). While many organisations have implemented a whistleblowing mechanism, our survey findings indicate that there has not been a significant investment in the implementation of these, and there is a lack of awareness as well. Consequently, there is limited confidence in the confidentiality of the mechanism and transparency on the actions taken by the company to address the complaints received, hence stakeholders are reluctant to come forward and voice their concerns. Due to these challenges smaller corporations are still debating the basic need to set up a whistleblowing mechanism. The survey findings indicate three areas of development that corporates can consider in order to increase stakeholder confidence in the whistleblowing mechanisms implemented by the company. • Building a more robust framework around the whistle-blower mechanism to actively address all complaints received • Increasing training programmes to build awareness, and stakeholder trust in existing whistleblowing mechanisms • Communicating to employees the actions taken towards whistle-blower complaints received Since the time our survey concluded, the world has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in large scale remote working arrangements. However, despite the change in location of work, many of the ethical dilemmas and policy violations that would require to be reported via whistleblower programmes continue to persist. Organisations which invested in robust whistleblowing programmes have been able to address these issues. Interestingly, many large organisations in countries with more mature whistleblower programmes have scaled up their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also begun utilising their whistleblower infrastructure to provide a COVID-19 helpline to resolve employee queries and provide guidance to company policies for operations. In some cases updates on employee health and well-being have also been gathered through this mechanism. I hope that this survey report will help you make your existing whistleblowing programmes robust. I also hope it will inspire many of you to start thinking of vigil mechanisms as a powerful tool for reporting violations and enhancing corporate governance. Regards, Nikhil Bedi, Partner and Leader – Forensic, Financial Advisory, Deloitte India
  • 3. 4 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Nearly half of the respondents indicated that the custodian of their organisation’s whistleblowing programme was a committee such as the Ethics Committee, Audit Committee or the Board. The rest indicated that single individuals - like the Head of HR or Compliance or Internal Audit – were the custodians. Less than 33 percent of respondents indicated having an annual training programme and less than 40 percent run periodic campaigns or newsletters to increase awareness about their whistleblowing mechanism Organisations largely only provide one channel to report concerns. Only 33 percent of respondents said they provided three or more channels in their whistleblowing mechanism, including email, live voice answering and voicemail Almost 75 percent of the respondents indicated not using any case management system to track and monitor all complaints received and communicate the ongoing status of any associated investigations. About 47 percent of respondents indicated investing less than INR 5 lakhs annually on their whistleblowing mechanism. Over two–third of all respondents indicated relying partly or completely on an in-house operated programme About 30 percent of respondents indicated not using a Whistleblower Policy document to provide guidance to employees on the whistle- blower programme About 41 percentof respondents have implemented or enhanced their whistle-blower mechanism after the legislation was passed. About 12.5 percentindicated that they were yet to implement a structured whistleblowing mechanism Section 1: Companies have implemented whistleblowing programmes, but how robust are these? Over 50 percent of our survey respondents comprised custodians of whistleblowing programmes in organisations. This section has exclusively used their responses to derive insights. 5 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms
  • 4. 76 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Companies face an ambiguity on the detailed requirements of what could constitute an adequate vigil mechanism to detect corporate fraud and misconduct. Companies have therefore implemented whistle-blower mechanisms of varied complexities based on their discretion. In our experience many small companies where the legislation is not applicable have completely avoided setting up a formal vigil mechanism. This situation appears to have posed a quandary for organisations, as substantiated by the survey results – In recent times major corporate frauds have been exposed in the public domain due to whistle-blower complaints received, which has put the spotlight back on these mechanisms. Given the importance of such platforms in exposing corporate frauds, it remains to be seen if momentum for the enhancement of whistle-blower mechanisms is created. Globally, the presence of whistleblowing programmes has resulted in 50 percent lesser value of fraud loss1 . However, in India there is a deficit of case studies that can demonstrate a similar direct correlation between the presence of such programmes, the quantum of fraud, and reputational losses. Unless organisations in India are encouraged to share their success stories, whistleblowing programmes will not be taken seriously. The limited investments in whistleblowing programmes is a clear indicator that it may exist to only satisfy a regulatory requirement. As a consequence, organisations run the risk of ignoring genuine complaints that such a mechanism may not be equipped to capture and this is detrimental to the interest of the organisation. In our experience, the investments towards such programmes should be proportionate to the quantum of fraud risks perceived. The ACFE Report indicates that globally organisations lose upto five percent of their revenues to fraud, with small organisations losing twice as much as large ones. 1 Source: ACFE Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 2018 (‘ACFE Report’) Deloitte perspective Inability to ascertain the effectiveness of the programme Low investments towards these programmes Section 2: Organisations that have invested in annual training programmes and awareness campaigns have seen greater success from whistle- blower programmes Over 50 percent of our survey respondents comprised custodians of whistleblowing programmes in organisations. This section has exclusively used their responses to derive insights.
  • 5. 9 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Respondents representing companies with annual trainings and dedicated internal campaigns indicated receiving a higher number of complaints, dominated by ethical issues such as bribery and corruption or sexual harassment. These complaints formed over 50 percent of all investigations undertaken by the organisation. Over 60%of respondents believe that their whistleblowing programmes have increased employee confidence in the management and bolstered management sensitivity and intent to address fraud and noncompliance-related issues Survey results indicate that organisations with reasonably well structured mechanisms tend to see positive results – higher numbers of relevant disclosures, higher proportion of fraudulent issues highlighted, investigations taken to logical conclusions, strengthening of internal controls and reduction in losses. Yet, there remain issues that need to be addressed if these programmes are to become comparable with global whistleblowing programmes. In our experience, we have observed channels inundated with complaints pertaining to personal grievances (with peers, poor performance reviews or appraisals) and complaints about office properties (faulty hardware, dysfunctional printers, etc.). While these are operational issues that need to be addressed, they also end up consuming significant management time. Over time, an abundance of such issues on the whistleblowing channel can result in it being shut down or abandoned. To tackle the influx of complaints, global organisations tend to outsource the hotline channel management to third parties, who may sift through responses and identify the right team that can address this. It is also important therefore to devise and communicate the scope of the whistle-blower policy and what constitutes a relevant disclosure. A successful whistleblowing programme needs to generate awareness on the type of issues that can be reported through the mechanism and the distinction between ethical violations and corporate malpractices, from human resource matters and administrative issues. Such training can include various risks and schemes which could indicate corporate malpractices such as conflict of interest, bribery, kickbacks, embezzlement of funds, etc. Deloitte perspective Addressing frivolous complaints Emphasis on training 8 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Further, personal grievances dominated the type of complaints reported through the whistleblowing channels While over 35 percent of respondents indicated seeing a reduction in losses due to early detection of fraudulent practices, it is interesting to note that almost 60 percent of respondents mentioned receiving less than 10 complaints a year
  • 6. 1110 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Nearly 45 percent of respondents were partially or completely unaware of the whistle-blower policy and mechanism in their organisation and 48 percentindicated they had not received any formal training on the policy. Section 3: Employee confidence in whistleblowing programmes remains low A little less than 50 percent of our survey respondents comprised of working professionals who responded to a different set of questions on the effectiveness of whistleblowing channels. This section has exclusively used their responses to derive insights. Uncertainty over how complaints are treated in general and if their complaints would be addressed (about 50 percent of respondents) Fears over confidentiality around handling complaints (about two-thirds of respondents) Concerns around who receives and processes complaints (about one-thirdof respondents) Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms 11 Consequently, a similar percentage of respondents indicated reservations about reporting their concerns via a whistleblowing channel. Some of these reservations were: 45% 48%
  • 7. 1312 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms A true measure of success of a whistle-blower mechanism is employee willingness to use it to report violations or potential fraud. It is also critical that employees are made aware of the nature of disclosures that a whistle-blower mechanism is meant for, and perhaps the kind of additional information that makes investigation of a disclosure effective; e.g. indicators of an incident, identity of counterparties, existence of documentary evidence, etc. Survey results indicate that this aspect remains a challenge for organisations. In our experience, organisations can consider adopting the following best practices to address employee concerns. Organisations can communicate specific instances where a whistle-blower complaint led to an investigation and subsequently appropriate action was taken against those involved in the malpractices. Specifically, it must also highlight how the whistle- blower was treated/ protected throughout the process. Not communicating these aspects of the whistleblowing programme can lead to misinformation and false propaganda. Leading organisations have instituted ethics champions among employees who reinforce the message of ethical practices and encourage their colleagues to use the whistleblowing hotline. This can help improve the perception around whistleblowing programmes. Many large organisations are beginning to publicly reward and recognise their staff for demonstrating ethical behaviours. While one may argue that such an award isn’t necessary, in the current climate of ethical dilemma and malpractice, it can help put the spotlight on ethical behaviours and whistleblowing. Deloitte perspective Discuss how complaints are handled Co-opt employees to champion the programme Recognising ethical behaviours Building a robust Whistleblower Programme Nearly 40 percent of all corporate fraud, misconduct and malpractice is detected by tips globally. Organisations with whistleblowing channels detect fraud more often than those without (46 percent of cases, as opposed to 30 percent)2 . A robust whistleblowing channel should ideally act as the first source that individuals can access to report suspicious conduct/transactions. However, several factors can pose as roadblocks. Cultural skepticism of whistleblowing in general, limited clarity on what issues can be reported through such channels, and lack of trust due to limited knowledge of what happens to complaints received. Unless organisations actively address these issues, a whistleblower channel is likely to remain ineffective. 2 Source: ACFE Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 2018
  • 8. 1514 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms In our experience we have noted that effective whistleblower programmes tend to have the following features: A whistle-blower policy document which provides guidance on the mechanism (including scope, responsibilities of the complainant and the ethics committee etc.) and provides emphasis on the protection (and non-retaliation) for whistleblowers An independent service provider who confidentially receives all the complaints, maintains a record of all complaints received and provides any available feedback to the whistleblower Mandatory annual training to staff and third parties on the programme Access to multiple channels such as live answering calls, voicemails, email, etc. to report the complaints An agile complaint review mechanism which evaluates all complaints and determines the necessary course of action within a reasonable period of time Extending the programme to third parties, such as vendors, business partners and contract staff A committee of ombudspersons comprised of different department heads who are responsible for overseeing the programme and independently reviewing all complaints received in the mechanism A dedicated budget to ensure smooth functioning and wide coverage of the programme 01 04 07 02 05 08 03 06 The future of whistleblower programmes in India Effective whistle-blower programmes can be a foundation for establishing a level playing field, both within and outside the company, and upholding corporate governance norms. In the last couple of decades, several organisations in developed nations have demonstrated their commitment to developing strong whistle-blower mechanisms. Legislative measures have also supported the need for disclosures around fraud and malpractice alongside providing protection to whistleblowers. In the developing world, as more and more millennials and younger generations are exposed to a global education that places emphasis on fair play and puts the corporation above personal interests, we see organisations in these countries embark on a path to developing robust whistleblowing programmes. In India a significant portion of the working class today is far more outspoken and far less tolerant of ambiguities and malpractice. Organisations can rely on them to build an ethical culture and promote whistleblowing as an act of self-defense against forces that endanger organisational reputation. From an infrastructure standpoint, to ensure the objectivity of whistleblowing programmes, organisations can use software to record and manage complaints. This way, issues can be addressed on time and communicated back to whistleblowers. Technology can also be leveraged to manage multiple channels for reporting complaints. From a regulatory standpoint, India lacks a specific protection for whistleblowers. However, the Government of India’s Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015, addresses protection for whistle-blowers in public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants. In time, one can expect the coverage of the Bill to be expanded to include private sector malpractice and fraud, as is the case in several developed countries. Corporate protection to whistle-blowers would significantly boost whistle-blower confidence. While the future looks promising for whistleblowing programmes, they can still be derailed by one factor – the perception of potential whistle-blowers that their organisations lack seriousness in addressing complaints. In the last few years whistleblowers have taken to social media to highlight cases of malpractice and misconduct as they felt the involved organisations did not demonstrate the necessary seriousness in addressing them. Unfortunately, the repercussions of social media exposé have been severe for all involved parties – the organisation, complainant, and the accused. In light of this, organisations need to go beyond stating their intent, and clearly demonstrate results to all stakeholders.
  • 9. 1716 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanismsDeloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms Perspectives from South East Asia Singapore This section has been authored by Jarrod Baker, Partner with our Singapore practice. Views expressed should not be attributed to Deloitte India. Corporate whistleblowing landscape The Code of Corporate Governance requires companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to publicly disclose and clearly communicate to employees, the existence of a whistle- blowing policy and the procedures whereby concerns can be raised. Whilst many larger companies adopt a whistle-blowing policy and associated procedures, smaller private companies tend to lack formal whistle-blowing mechanisms due to resource constraints. In our experience, corporate whistle- blowing is most commonly handled internally through an individual company’s whistle-blowing mechanism, which usually includes having a whistle- blowing policy and reporting channels in place. Best practices currently followed The Singapore Institute of Directors, which is the national association of company directors in Singapore, developed a statement of good practice (SGP) on whistle-blowing policies, which details best practices around whistle- blowing reporting mechanisms. The SGP recommends the following elements: • 24 hours access, 365 days per year; • Multi-lingual capability, particularly for operations in foreign locations; • Multiple communication channels, e.g. hotline, web, email, facsimile and post; • Ability or mechanism to provide feedback to the whistle-blower even if they are anonymous; and • An outsourced solution as the mechanism is independent of management (deemed to give potential whistle-blowers a greater sense of transparency and commitment to do something about the matters reported). Many listed companies and government agencies have whistle-blowing mechanisms that adopt these best practices. Legislation and Regulation Singapore does not have a universal legislation in place for whistle-blowing. Instead, the city-state draws upon a variety of different legislations to provide protection for a targeted group of whistle-blowers including corruption and drug related complainants. Examples of such legislative protection is set out in the Prevention of Corruption Act whereby, Section 36 of the Act provides protection by mandating confidentiality of a whistle- blower’s identity. Similarly, Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, provides the same confidentiality protection for whistle-blowers. Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SGX, undertakes all frontline regulatory functions on behalf of SGX and its regulated subsidiaries. In late 2019, SGX RegCo, set up a whistle-blowing office to provide a formal whistle-blowing channel to ensure confidentiality of reports and robustness of process. The whistle-blowing office serves as the primary department for the receipt, assessment and management of all whistleblowing allegations against SGX listed companies. Overall, existing whistle-blower legislation in Singapore provides limited protection as it only covers a targeted group of whistle-blowers. Concerns have been raised by some organisations and individuals that the absence of general whistle-blowing legislation inadvertently allows groups of whistle-blowers to fall through the gaps, leaving whistle-blowers of workplace issues such as fraud and misconduct potentially vulnerable to retaliation for making such reports. SGX RegCo Leads the Charge To provide greater reassurance and encourage reporting by whistle-blowers, in February 2020, SGX RegCo announced that it intends to enact into its listing rules, a whistle-blowing policy that would require all SGX listed companies to ensure confidentiality, and no retaliation against whistle-blowers. In this regard, SGX RegCo is looking to consult the market in June 2020 and thereafter enact the whistle-blowing policy by the end of 2020.
  • 10. 18 Deloitte India Survey on the effectiveness of corporate whistleblowing mechanisms About the survey This survey report has been developed on the basis of responses received to a questionnaire that we circulated to leading CXOs and working professionals across all major sectors and organisations, in December 2019 and January 2020 . The survey saw a total of 218 responses, of which over half of them identified themselves as custodians of the whistleblowing programmes in their organisations. The response rate to questions varies and not all respondents have answered all questions in the survey. Each statistic used in this report is derived from the number of responses to that question and must not be considered consistent across the report. For multiple choice questions and priority based questions, the weighted average of responses for that question has been used to derive the statistics. Acknowledgements We would like to thank Darpan More and Sushil Sawant for their efforts in giving this survey the desired shape. We would also like to thank our Information Technology and Brand and Communications teams, and the Quality and Risk team at Financial Advisory Services, for supporting us with this document. About Deloitte’s Forensic practice in India Deloitte’s Forensic practice in India helps organisations protect their brand and reputation through proactive advice on their exposure to fraud, corruption, noncompliance, misconduct and other future business risk issues. The practice also helps clients react quickly and confidently in a crisis, investigation or dispute scenario. Practitioners have extensive experience investigating whistle-blower complaints and working with custodians to develop robust redressal mechanisms and associated policies. We use our global network, deep industry experience and advanced analytical technology to understand and resolve/ deal with all such issues. The team comprises of CAs, MBAs, CFEs, forensic accountants, lawyers, investigative journalists, economists, professionals with law enforcement experience, computer forensic and data analytics specialists and engineers, to name a few, who bring in diverse skill sets to the practice.
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