When it comes to a measurement of performance with respect to the key corporate governance tool of established whistleblowing programs, one could hardly call 57% a pass mark. Yet that is what has been found by Regnan – Governance Research & Engagement in its study of 177 of the top 200 ASX listed companies. In fact, 2 out of 3 of the studied companies did not meet or just met the minimum expectations. The minimum expectations as defined by Regnan are:
• There is more than one reporting line option (unless that reporting line is clearly impartial e.g. the system is operated by an independent/external body)
• Reports can be made both anonymously and confidentially.
• Protection from retaliation is guaranteed, and
• All employees in all divisions have access to the system.
Paul Rogers of Regnan found 15% do not disclose anything about whistleblowing/reporting breaches; 8% do not meet requirements for having a whistleblower system; 21% have undeveloped systems and 23% have systems that meet minimum expectations. Rogers believes that whistleblower systems are one of the most important elements of an active business risk control program.
In response to the study, Peter Bowden, NSW President of Whistleblowers’ Australia was quoted to say Australian whistleblower legislation in the private sector is virtually non-existent”, adding “Australian whistleblower protection laws are about the worst in the English speaking language”.
In recent weeks market research has highlighted the impact of corporate governance on the reputation of Australia’s leading companies. The AMR Corporate Reputation Index ranks companies on a range of criteria including corporate citizenship, corporate governance, innovation, products, leadership and workplace reputation.
The research concluded that as a result of the Mark McInnes sexual harassment allegations, David Jones had fallen from 18th to 49th on workplace reputation out of 60 companies ranked. DJ’s also fell from 8th to 41st on governance, 10th to 49th on leadership and from 8th to 25th overall. Conversely, Visy highlighted the capacity to regain public standing, albeit over a lengthy period, by being ranked 3rd in the survey’s corporate citizenship component recovering from 43rd in 2008 after the 2007 price fixing scandal. The top overall performer was JB Hi-Fi followed by Australia Post, Toyota, Nestle and Wesfarmers.
Reported in Vol 10 Issue 2 of Stopline , 2011