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Obligations to report corruption

Examples of national statutory and non-statutory provisions

Whistleblowing is one of the most effective ways of exposing and remedying corruption in both the private and public sector. The act of whistleblowing can be understood as exercising one’s right to report wrongdoing, which is an extension of the right to freedom of expression. Some countries have elevated this right to the status of an obligation, imposed on different categories of individuals. While in some cases, these obligations are applicable to citizens in general, in other countries, provisions refer only to public officials. Specific references to corruption are not always present; in many cases, legislation requires individuals to report on any type of wrongdoing witnessed, which includes corruption, but also other types of felonies and misdemeanours. The existence of a duty to report corruption and other forms of wrongdoing cannot replace a proper whistleblowing policy and protective measures. Moreover, in many countries, the obligation to report crimes and/or corruption is not found in the law but has been included in other documents that do not have legal status, such as codes of conduct.

10 January 2023
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Obligations to report corruption

Main points

  • Whistleblowing is one of the most important tools for exposing corruption.
  • International standards seek to encourage individuals in general and public officials in particular to report corruption of which they have become aware, but not all of standards recommend or determine the establishment of an obligation to report.
  • Dozens of countries have established statutory obligations on categories of individuals to report crimes and/or corruption they have witnessed. Provisions vary significantly, but penalties usually include imprisonment and fines.
  • In some countries, this obligation is found in codes of conduct or guidelines which are not legally binding.
  • There is little to no information on the actual enforcement of these provisions and no evidence that such obligations are capable, by themselves, of increasing the number of reports of corruption.
  • A glaring contradiction exists in countries where individuals or public officials have an obligation to report instances of corruption, but measures to protect reporting persons are insufficient or inadequate.

Cite this publication

France, G. (2023) Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2023:1)

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Guilherme France


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)