Pieter Omtzigt: 'Malta whistleblower law not fit for purpose'

Omtzigt has strong criticism on Malta's whistleblower protection reform, saying it was rushed through without meaningful consultation

Dutch politician and Pieter Omtzigt has strongly criticised Malta’s reform on whistleblower protection, arguing that the onus of proof lies disproportionately on the whistleblowers themselves

“Last Friday’s deadline for the transposition of the EU Directive on improving whistleblower protection would have been a great opportunity to improve the legal protections for whistleblowers in Malta, in line with the recommendations of the Council of Europe and the EU Directive. Since the brutal murder of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, everyone knows how important such protections are for Malta,” he said.

Omtzigt is the Parliamentary Assembly’s General Rapporteur on the protection of whistleblowers. He proceeded to list the main weaknesses of the reform, notably how the new private and public sector whistleblower units do not provide the necessary guarantees of independence and absence of conflict of interest.

Omtzigt further explained how “barriers in access to the organisational leadership prevent whistleblower information from getting into the right hands, which is after all the main purpose of whistleblower protection”.

Additionally, a loophole in the definitions places a high burden of proof on the whistleblower, as protection is denied whenever a negative action is ‘justifiable for administrative or organisational reasons’, whether or not it is retaliatory.

 In terms of procedure, he remarked that the legislation was “rushed through without meaningful consultation” while ignoring directive requirements for transparency.

Amendments to Malta’s whistleblower law were put forward in November this year, a few weeks before the EU transposition deadline.

The new act introduced the concept of a whistleblower facilitator in companies that employ 50 or more people. Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis insisted anonymity will be safeguarded.

The whistleblower framework in workplaces applies for both private companies and government entities which employ more than 50 workers.

Furthermore, the act will also cover public disclosure or external reporting, meaning that anyone that goes public with an abuse story, will be protected.

The employee definition will be updated to include shareholders, those that are still not officially employed and past employees.  Also, for the first time, record keeping will become obligatory.