In 2019, Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of whistleblowers (the “Directive”) was adopted at the European Union level. According to the Directive, effective and comprehensive protection of whistleblowers (whistleblowers), i.e. persons who report work-related misconduct, is an essential element of the fight against corruption and part of a functioning rule of law.
The Internal Whistleblowing System (IWS)
The Czech Environmental Information Agency (CENIA) has adopted an internal guidance document “Guidelines for the protection of whistleblowers” on the basis of the applicable European legislation. This Directive describes the basic principles of procedural safeguards for the protection of a whistleblower (hereinafter referred to as ‘the whistleblower’) who has notified an infringement of EU law to the Czech Environmental Information Agency. The relevant person designated to receive, assess and deal with notifications is the Ethics Manager who is responsible for receiving, handling and protecting the whistleblower.
The purpose of whistleblower protection is to enable the detection of unlawful acts occurring in the workplace or in the course of or in connection with the performance of work (or other similar) activities which employees and persons in a similar position do not normally report to their employer or to the relevant government authorities, particularly for fear of losing their jobs or otherwise being penalised. However, it may also be a report of other unlawful conduct that is not related to the employer’s activities, but which the whistleblower became aware of in connection with his or her work at the Czech Environmental Information Agency.
Which infringements can be reported (areas covered by the notification):
- Public procurement,
- financial services, products and markets and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing,
- product safety and compliance,
- transport security,
- environmental protection,
- radiation protection and nuclear safety,
- food and feed safety, animal health and welfare,
- public health,
- consumer protection,
- privacy and personal data protection and network and information systems security.
- in writing, including electronically,
- orally (at the request of the notifier and in person).
Notifications submitted in writing are made by the notifier using the form ‘Notification of suspected infringement of EU law’.
In the case of electronic submission, the notifier shall send the completed form to the following e-mail address: email@example.com.
In the case of a written submission, the notifier shall send the completed form to:
Czech Environmental Information Agency
Manager of the Information Information Service of the Czech Republic Moskevská 1523/63
101 00 Prague 10
indicate on the envelope DO NOT OPEN, hand it over to the Ethics Manager
If the notification is made orally on the basis of a personal interview, the competent person (Ethics Manager) is obliged to make an audio recording of the notification or a transcript thereof. The whistleblower must be informed of the recording of the call. If the whistleblower does not consent to the recording, the person responsible must not make the recording. In such a case, only a written record of the notification shall be made, the content of which shall correspond to the protocol pursuant to Article 18(2) of Act No 500/2004 Coll., Administrative Procedure Code, as amended. In the event of a transcript of the notification being made, and in the event of a record being drawn up, the notifier shall be given the opportunity to comment on the transcript or record, and his comments shall be annexed to the transcript or record of the notification.
The report may be submitted anonymously, but for the purposes of a proper review and investigation, it is advisable to include at a minimum, identification of the persons suspected of committing the violation, a detailed description of the violation, specific evidence of the violation, or any knowledge that supports the suspected violation, any contact of the whistleblower intended solely for the purposes of the Ethics Manager.
The Ethics Manager/Ethics Officer shall notify the whistleblower no later than 7 days after receipt of the notification if the whistleblower has provided information on where and how to notify the whistleblower of the receipt of the notification and how the notification will be handled. No later than 3 calendar months after the receipt of the notification and the sending of the acknowledgement of receipt of the notification, or 3 calendar months and 7 days if the notifier has not been notified, the Ethics Manager shall inform the notifier of the outcome of the investigation, whether the notification covered the identified areas and whether the condition identified in the notification has been remedied, or what, if any, appropriate measures have been taken by the organisation to remedy or prevent the unlawful condition on the basis of the concluded investigation.
The External Whistleblowing System (EWS)
Reports of possible violations can also be made through the Ministry of Justice’s External Reporting System, even anonymously, at the following web address: https://oznamovatel.justice.cz/chci-podat-oznameni/.
Information regarding, in particular, the proper procedure for reporting violations, maintaining whistleblower protection, what violations can be reported, how violations can be reported and how they will be investigated, and a variety of other information can be found on the DOJ website (under the Whistleblower Information section): https://oznamovatel.justice.cz/.
Publication of the notification
Publication of a notification is another option for whistleblowers who would not be able to get their notification dealt with using the options below. Publication is a fully fledged form of notification and all provisions relating to notification apply mutatis mutandis. Where a notification is published, the person who made the notification is entitled to protection against retaliation. Publication means any making available to the public of the information contained in the notification, i.e., for example, through a social network, a media post or a website.
The notifier may make the notification public if one of the following occurs:
- no appropriate action has been taken in response to a notification made through the VOS or EOS within the specified time limits,
- the failure of the notifier to act could jeopardise an important public interest, e.g. because of the risk of delay,
- it is not possible to file a notification with the Ministry of Justice without incurring increased risk (e.g. destruction of evidence, obstruction of proper assessment of the notification or sanctioning of the notifier).
Publication will only be used by the whistleblower in the exceptional case where the purpose of the notification cannot be achieved using standard channels (VOS, EOS). The fulfilment of the conditions for publication of the notification then depends on the subjective assessment of the notifier. If it later becomes apparent that the conditions have not been met in a given case, the notifier will be held liable for its actions under the relevant legislation.