Whistleblowing advice for accountants: how, when, & why speak up

Accountants in the industry are often key to the planning and control processes of their organizations. These accountants may find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether or not to blow the whistle on an organizational wrongdoing. Some people, both inside and outside the profession, would view the accountants’ decision to blow the whistle as morally and professionally justifiable; while others would see it as harmful to the employing organization and would advise against doing so.

We learn from an early age that no one likes a snitch and telling tales out of school wins you no friends. It can therefore be a challenge to upend our core ingrained values and accept that reporting malpractice actually does show bravery, loyalty and a desire to improve an entire organisation.

Whistleblowing is essential in upholding and protecting a company’s reputation – and that of accountancy as a whole. If we see something we think brings discredit to our profession, we have a duty to report it. If it’s a criminal act, that duty can become a legal obligation.

Let’s be clear: blowing the whistle is absolutely not about “telling tales” or personal grievance – those are completely different. Whistleblowing is about confidentially raising concerns of danger, risk, malpractice or wrongdoing.

Circumstances requiring accountants to speak up would most commonly include:

  • Money laundering 
  • Tax evasion
  • Data protection breach
  • Employees stealing organization funds and/or properly.
  • Employees accepting bribes or kickbacks.
  • Employees abusing their official position to obtain substantial personal services of favors.
  • Employees giving unfair advantage to a contractor, consultant, or vendor.
  • Employees creating or tolerating a situation that poses a danger to public health or safety.
  • Management permitting development or production of unsafe products.
  • Management permitting development or production of products not in compliance with government regulations.
  • Management covering up poor performance, whether financial figures or non-financial figures.
  • Management making overly optimistic and false projections of future performance.
  • Management permitting working conditions that could endanger the safety of or cause physical harm to employees.
  • Employees creating or tolerating unsafe working conditions.
  • Waste of organizational assets caused by inappropriate parties receiving money, goods, or services.
  • Waste caused by the purchase of unnecessary or deficient goods or services.
  • Waste of organizational assets caused by poorly managed organizational operations.

However, this could also cover more general wrongdoing around mental health and safety of employees. 

Whether in practice or in business, all accountants should expect to be able to report suspected wrongdoing without recrimination. Therefore it’s important for all organisations to have strong  internal whistleblowing procedures & systems in place, being able to invite third parties to investigate & to get legal help.

With a solid whistleblowing tool & policy it becomes safe for anyone to report misconduct confidentially and without fear of repercussion. Whistleblowing enables companies to take stock and learn difficult lessons; it empowers employees and makes them feel valued and listened to. A sound policy inspires confidence not just in your employees, but in your clients and the accountancy profession as a whole.

Do you want to learn more about how you can use NorthWhistle to implement a strong whistleblowing culture in your organization. Book a meet below and we will be happy to talk.