Whistleblowing law comes into force in Latvia on 1 May

16.04.2019 Whistleblowing law comes into force in Latvia on 1 May

The issues on the promotion of whistleblowing and the protection of whistle-blowers are becoming increasingly important. On 1 May 2019, the Whistleblowing Law will come into force, which according to the annotation will show the position of the state that the whistleblowing is an action of a democratically responsible citizen and the public supports it.

Pursuant to Article 1, the purpose of this law is to promote whistleblowing on the violations in the public interest, and to ensure establishment and operation of the whistleblowing mechanism, as well as adequate protection of the whistle-blowers. The definition of the whistle-blower contained in the law sets the “limits” for application of the protection prescribed by the law. Namely, pursuant to the Whistleblowing Law, a whistle-blower is a natural person, who provides information on the possible infringement that can undermine the public interest, if the person has grounds to believe this information to be true and it has been obtained in relation to the performance of work or establishing a work-related legal relationship. So the information about the infringement that the provider thereof believes to be true provider, must be obtained in relation to performance of work context (being in employment legal relationship, during the performance of a service contract, voluntary work, etc.), and the alarm should not be spread solely in one’s own interests. As from the moment of spreading alarm the whistle-blower and its relatives will be entitled to use the guarantees prescribed in Article 10 of the  Whistleblowing Law (protection of identity, protection against the adverse effects resulting from the whistleblowing, legal aid ensured by the state, etc.) that will be lost if no match with the characteristics of whistleblowing is established.

The scope of infringement that is subject to whistleblowing is not limited, while Article 3 of the Law prescribes that a whistle-blower is entitled to spread alarm especially about the following offenses: 1) inactivity, negligence or abuse of authority by a public official; 2) corruption; 3) fraud; 4) waste of financial assets and property of a public person; 5) tax evasion; 6) threat to public health; 7) threat to food safety; 8) threat to construction safety; 9) threat to environmental safety; 10) threat to labor safety; 11) public order disturbance; 12) violation of human rights; 13) violation in the area of public procurement; 14) violation in the financial and capital market sector; 15) violation of competition law.

The Whistleblowing Law will determine also specific obligations for certain persons. Pursuant to Article 5 of the Law, public authorities and such private law legal entities that have more than 50 employees shall establish an internal whistleblowing system, thus ensuring a possibility for the employees to notify of the violations in a safe manner and guaranteeing protection to them.

There are different solutions for modeling the internal whistleblowing system, and each public institution or private-law legal person should choose the option most appropriate to its size, nature of the activity and internal organization. It is essential that the internal whistleblowing system does not exist only "on paper", but the developed solutions attain the goal for that system.

If the whistleblowing is promoted, both the company and the particular person, in the activities of whom the violation has been observed, will gain. Moreover, establishment and prevention of violations, without going outside the boundaries of the organizational, may be both more effective and cause less damage to reputation. The annotation of the Whistleblowing Law indicates that in the long term, the law will have a positive impact on the economic development also due to the fact that, thanks to the whistle-blowers, such violations as corruption or threat to health and environment, as well as the possible the damage to the economy will be prevented, which would be caused, if the infringement happened. While, during the conference “Towards transparency, accountability and better management: whistleblowing and fight against corruption”, there were statements that the companies that provide reporting capabilities, will have less risk of expenses, if they are able to early detect any problems; likewise, there is also the possibility to attract and retain qualified staff. In our opinion, the whistleblowing system is essentially necessary both in the state or local government and other public institutions, and in the private-law legal entities, because there will be benefits in each separate case, when protecting the whistle-blowers and preventing violations, and creating a responsible attitude towards detection and prevention of infringements in the society at large.