Whistleblowing – a new step in the Macedonian struggle for a better future

Goran Lefkov

Whistleblowing as a phenomenon gives a strong impetus to the fight against corruption and contributes to better democratic governance. There were forms of whistleblowing in our country in the past as well. The difference between then and now is that today whistleblowing is regulated by law. The most famous case of whistleblowing is the case of Gjorgji Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski. They are the people who had been collecting materials about the criminal activities of the government of Nikola Gruevski for years and stored those materials and at some point, gave them to a person they trusted to expose them to the end. They made a heroic deed that we are all proud of. With their actions, they set the country at a much higher level in the fight against corruption. They have started a process that will encourage many people who suffer injustice. They have created a better future for the new generations.

To protect them, Macedonia was one of the few countries in Europe to pass a whistleblower law in 2016. With a lot of energy and hope that whistleblowing as a process is legal and we will get a whole new system of reporting corruption and crime.

Unfortunately, the initial euphoria did not prove to be successful. We have had very few reports so far. According to experts, the reasons are various, from insufficient promotion of good cases in public, to the fear that whistleblowers will end badly in their jobs, that they have threats etc. More fundamental amendments to the law on whistleblowers should be considered and the recent conference of the Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia, on the occasion of the World Whistleblower Day, highlighted the weaknesses of the whistleblower protection system. The changes should follow the needs of the whistleblowers. Almost every single one of the reported whistleblowers later suffers repercussions for their heroism. They were eager to correct some injustice, unfortunately the system punished them instead of rewarding them.

Our whistleblower law recognizes internal and external whistleblowing. Internal whistleblowing goes through a person who will mediate between the whistleblower and the institutions that need to clear up that illegal operation. So far, there have been no major reports of internal reporting. Almost all reports come through the so-called external reporting. That is why the concept of internal reporting should be seriously considered. So far it has not given any results. It needs a complete change, as a concept. What North Macedonia needs to do in that direction is to focus its energy on external reporting. Unfortunately, the concept of whistleblowing is new and there is not much experience to copy, but in Macedonia there are already whistleblowers and only by analyzing their experiences we can bring effective measures to protect them and improve the whistleblowing system.

The State Commission for Prevention of Corruption has the most certificates of whistleblowers.

The external model of whistleblowing is structured so that whistleblowers can report a case to several institutions, including the Ministry of Interior, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman, the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, the Customs and the Public Revenue Office. The most successful and most trusted among whistleblower is the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption. They received 19 reports last year.

They are certainly not enough. In a country where the corruption perceptions index is in free fall, there should be many more reporting cases.

Therefore, the amendments to the law on whistleblowing should be seriously studied, there is also the new directive of the European Union from 2019 when new rules were adopted and they should be used to the maximum and to enrich the scope of measures for whistleblower protection. We have a great opportunity to create a very effective system for fight against corruption system and we must seize that opportunity.