Former AG looks to ombudsman for protection of whistleblowers

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The Office of the Ombudsman in Antigua & Barbuda must be strengthened and made apolitical as a measure to protect whistle-blowers and combat corruption in the government, former attorney general Justin Simon said.
During Sunday’s The Big Issues, academic experts and former government officials in the Caribbean region posited that “anti-informant” beliefs are driving a fear of exposing wrongdoing in both public and private institutions.
While pundits suggested implementing legislation, either within the Labour Code or as a separate Act of Parliament, to protect such individuals, known internationally as “whistle-blowers”, Simon recommended focusing on making the local Office of the Ombudsman a strong, apolitical, organisation that individuals can report to directly and anonymously.
“I’ve always expressed it, even during the UPP [United Progressive Party] term of office, that statutory corporations are expressly established to allow for independent persons to run those corporations,” Simon said. “But politicians do not allow those persons to act independently … The moment you find anyone acting independently, look out. They deal with the person in a very rash manner. And the [Antigua Barbuda] Labour Party government has done that on many occasions.”
Dr David Dorsett, a local attorney, said that sufficient legislation and institutions are already in place in Antigua & Barbuda to protect individuals who report unethical activity.
But proponents for whistle-blower protection legislation said that those institutions do not address cultural barriers.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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