Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC), is in Montenegro this week calling for enactment of whistleblower protections as a key component of transparency.
Kohn is traveling to Montenegro under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State. Today, the on-line journal Vijesti is running an article in Croatian about Kohn’s visit to Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.
According to the Vijesti article, Kohn is saying that efforts to expose corruption in government and in businesses depend on protecting whistleblowers. A translation of the Vijesti article is available in the continuation of this blog entry.
American Expert Stephen Kohn Says that Montenegro Needs to Protect Employees Who Speak Out about Corruption
Podgorica – No fight against corruption will be effective if the information does not surface to cure the state agencies and large companies, Stephen Kohn, director of the U.S. National Whistleblowers Center said yesterday. "Whistleblowers" are people who report corruption and then risk losing their jobs.
Kohn has recommended that Montenegro legally protect and encourage employees to report fraud and business practices. Reports made by "whistleblowers" in the United States have became one of the main mechanisms for the protection of taxpayers’ money.
Kohn gave a lecture to the Directorate for Human Resources. He pointed out that the U.S. has more than 50 laws that protect and encourage insiders to speak on contentious matters and that any democratic government should support them.
"If Montenegro moves to protect the ‘whistleblowers’, we must face the fact that the government should protect them, even though her work may appear in a bad light," said Kohn.
He said that the reports of "whistleblowers" are the most common way to tackle corruption in the United States, and their protection is one indicator of how ready a democratic society is to protect the right to free speech.
Kohn arrived in Montenegro three days ago. He has already heard that there are many insiders, but did not say from whom he received the information and who are the Montenegrin insiders.
"The ball is in your backyard," said Kohn, for Montenegro to design and adopt a precise law that protects the brave individuals.
"Employees who have the courage to uncover corruption or danger to the environment, need to be protected according to custom," said the American expert, "otherwise you would watch them ruin their careers."
He pointed out that "whistleblowers" in the United States can be motivated by an award of 15 to 33 percent of the money that states recover through their reports.
"There is no question that the protection of whistleblowers is, in fact, the protection of people," said Kohn, who was represented whistleblowers in world famous cases, such as the bombing of the World Trade Center and the case of O. J. Simpson.
Kohn is an attorney representing fifty employees in government agencies, including officers of the federal police. He held his lecture at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro.