Fewer Singaporeans willing to whistleblow

Aza Wee Sile | Special to
Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Fewer employees in Singapore are willing to expose unethical colleagues due to increased fears of retaliation, a new report found.

An EY survey found that although 67 percent of companies in Singapore have whistleblowing hotlines, the number of employees prepared to use them has dropped since 2013, when the consultancy last did the survey. EY found that 71 percent of respondents to its 2013 survey were willing to use a hotline if necessary, but the number fell to 62 percent this year.

"The drop in whistleblower hotline usage appears to be due to respondents being increasingly concerned about insufficient legal protection or the lack of confidentiality for whistleblowers," said Reuben Khoo, an EY partner and Asean leader for fraud investigation and dispute services.

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Survey results also showed that although there had been an increase in companies implementing codes of conduct, anti-bribery or anti-corruption policies and whistleblowing hotlines, the moves were not seen by employees as effective. Almost 40 percent of respondents in Singapore felt that a code of conduct had little impact on how people actually behaved.

"Companies have to go beyond having the right code of conduct and policies to having a more proactive compliance monitoring program and integrity systems," said Khoo.

Despite its squeaky clean reputation and a robust anti-corruption atmosphere, Khoo added that Singapore should not be complacent on unethical behaviour "as it could be predisposed to unethical conduct that is happening elsewhere. "

Khoo suggested that companies employ forensic data analytics to monitor data within the organization to gain better insight into whether employees were engaged in unethical behavior.

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On the upside, 70 per cent of Singaporean respondents to the survey said that they believed companies with a strong reputation for ethical behavior had a commercial advantage. And 80 percent said they would not be keen to work for a company that was involved in or had an association with bribery and corruption .

According to Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, corruption is at its lowest in three decades, based on the number of cases the bureau is investigating. Singapore and New Zealand are the only two Asia Pacific countries among the top ten cleanest countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.