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A Win-Win Solution: Italy Proposes a Legislative Hack for COVID-Related Whistleblowers

Posted  June 12, 2020

As part of Constantine Cannon’s participation in the Financial Times Global Legal Hackathon, Partner Mary Inman collaborated with a multidisciplinary team to develop a hack to empower and protect COVID19 whistleblowers in Italy. Contributors include: Nicoletta Parisi, a professor of International Law at Universita degli Studi di Catania; Priscilla Robledo, a former IP attorney who now works as a campaigner on behalf of whistleblowers for non-profit advocacy group The Good Lobby; Laura Valli, a former senior investigator and ethics officer at the World Bank and current international advisor to Italian Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC); Tom Mueller, a New York Times bestselling author and journalist living in Milan whose recent novel Crisis of Conscience tackles the historical and cultural context of whistleblowers in the US; and Dr. Costantino Grasso, a law professor at Coventry University and expert on corporate and social responsibility, business ethics, and corporate governance.

The project, entitled How to ensure Covid-related whistleblowers are empowered in Italy, proposes a two-pronged legislative solution.

First, it calls for the establishment of an Italian COVID-19 Whistleblowers Office that would operate similar to an Ombudsman and in an independent capacity, ensuring that financial and psychological support measures for whistleblowers are administered properly. It would be chaired by a highly reputable individual and use experts from a wide range of fields to create a dedicated and skilled team to assist whistleblowers with all aspects of their claims. The Office would allow whistleblowers to bypass lengthy bureaucratic procedures through fast-track channels, allowing both them and the Italian government to save time and money and ensure that whistleblower concerns are raised, considered and addressed promptly.  In so doing, the Office would seek thereby to encourage Italian whistleblowers to come forward to expose many of the problems that have arisen during the pandemic (and have been accentuated by the heavily burdened state of the public health system and infrastructure), including corruption, mismanagement of COVID relief/stimulus funds, and lack of transparency and accountability.

Second, the hack seeks to fast-track the transposition of the new EU Whistleblowing Directive, ahead of the December 2021 deadline, to implement much-needed protections, such as offering whistleblowers financial and psychological support, allowing them to make public disclosures directly to media outlets, and extending protections to private sector and SME employees. Transposition will protect and empower whistleblowers generally and spur economic recovery, while specific protections for COVID-related whistleblowers can enable an effective immediate response to the current health crisis. Should the temporary legislation prove successful in the current COVID crisis, its provisions can be extended and adopted into the existing Italian legislative framework. That way, whistleblowers can be properly enlisted as a first line of defense as future public health or safety crises emerge.

We applaud Mary, Nicoletta, Priscilla, Laura, Tom and Costantino for their excellent hack calling for emergency legislative measures to empower and protect COVID-related whistleblowers in Italy and hope the Italian Parliament will see fit to evaluate and take up these measures at this critical juncture.

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Tagged in: CC Lawyers, COVID-19, Importance of Whistleblowers, International Whistleblowers, Whistleblower Protection Laws,