Society needs ethical climate conducive to whistleblowers

The China Post news staff

Yang Chen-yi (�����q), owner of the Dai Hanh Phuc Co. (�j���֤��q), was last month denied his request to become a government witness (���I�ҤH) in the Ting Hsin oil scandal involving livestock-grade oil sold for human consumption. His offer in exchange for a lighter sentence was refused as the prosecutors decided they had enough information independent of what Yang was able to offer. When the public asks the employee to come out and expose the wrongdoing, it is simultaneously asking for the sacrifice of the informant’s job, while also demanding the strength to withstand the pressure of retaliation. Inertia is a powerful force that pressures people to continue in their acceptance of organizational wrongdoing. Yet the spread of corruption demands more than the implementation of financial rewards for the informer. If we want to encourage the amount of personal courage it takes to come forward and expose wrongdoing in one’s own company or organization, long-term efforts to foster a sense of fairness at the grassroots level should be coupled with financial rewards great enough to compensate for many years on the job. These projects to encourage ethics could take the form of mandatory seminars for even low-level workers at companies, organized at public expense every half a year. Bending the rigid organizational structure of large companies in the hope of planting seeds of ethical knowledge should be the goal.

People at Ting Hsin who participated in the import, processing and transport of tainted oil may have been aware of the fact that they were participating in serious violations of ethical conduct. Furthermore, Ting Hsin officials who have been arrested and charged are probably a fraction of the people who were aware of yet continued to help in the release of tainted oil products onto the market. Furthermore, it was not an internal Ting Hsin employee who exposed wrongdoing; in recent cases, it was outsiders, including an old farmer and a similarly anonymous ��Mr. A,�� who blew the lid off the animal feed oil scandal. Taiwan already offers police protection for witnesses and further government assistance. Within a period of (and limited to) one year, which can potentially be extended by another, the government is directed to provide necessary financial support and career change assistance, according to the Witness Protection Law.