Update from Poland – Government draft law in limbo, citizen’s draft law in action

WIN is pleased to provide an update from the Stefan Batory Foundation on the proposed whistleblowing law in Poland. This article was developed with Marcin Waszak, Project Co-ordinator, The Stefan Batory Foundation.

A year ago, a coalition of Polish NGOs – including the Stefan Batory Foundation, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Institute of Public Affairs and the Trade Union Forum – began working on a Citizen’s Draft Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection. They wanted to provide a strong model for whistleblowing legislation in Poland that met international best practice and against which any government proposals could be effectively measured. The current version of the Citizen’s Draft Law is available in English here.

The Citizen’s Draft Law proved its value almost immediately when, in late 2017, the Polish NGO coalition were able to present it as antidote to dangerous proposals on “whistleblowing” drafted by the Coordinator of the Special Services. The Special Services proposals were included in the Government’s draft law on transparency in public life. The Stefan Batory Foundation strongly criticised the proposals, as did WIN who sent a letter from international experts urging the Polish Government to reject the whistleblower protection provisions as not fit for purpose.

But work on a Citizen’s Draft Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection continued and, in April 2018, the Stefan Batory foundation and the NGO Coalition launched an independent public consultation. The launch was held at the first of two public meetings and so far the consultation has gathered over 100 comments which will be taken into account whilst the coalition prepares the final version of the Citizen’s Draft Law.

Anyone interested in effective whistleblower protection is encouraged to review the Citizen’s Draft Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection and submit their comments here!

On 22th of September 2018, the NGO coalition held a second meeting, this time a Public Hearing on the Citizen’s Draft Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection at the University of Warsaw. The Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Adam Bodnar, delivered a welcome speech, declaring his support for the citizen’s law. The Public Hearing also provided a chance to garner additional perspectives from a range of participants, including two MPs from the Polish liberal opposition and one whistleblower. Videos from speeches delivered at this event are accessible via Facebook and YouTube.

The coalition of Polish NGOs are working tirelessly to finalise their work on the Citizen’s Draft Law, as well as on the rationale and the regulatory impact assessment that will be attached to the bill. Not only are they pushing for the Polish Government to adopt a stand-alone law on whistleblowing as one of the last countries in the EU to do so, the coalition is providing a legally sound made-in-Poland model with which to do so. Alongside these activities, they continue to intensify advocacy activities – raising awareness and support for the Citizen’s Draft Law and for whistleblower protection generally.

While the good news is that the Government’s original draft law on transparency in public life is unlikely to be resuscitated any time soon, given the strong opposition to it from within the Government for reasons other than whistleblowing, the Ministry of Justice are working on a new draft. This new proposal also includes limited but fragmented whistleblower provisions including penalties for entrepreneurs who fail to deal with whistleblowers’ reporting, and limited rights for a whistleblowers who can show their disclosures were “justified and might have affected prevention or quicker detection of the prohibited act” to seek reinstatement or compensation before a court. The draft law is in very early stages of internal consultation and it is not clear how far it will go.

WIN’s Executive Director Anna Myers was pleased to deliver a speech in support of the Citizen’s Draft Law at the event in April 2018. WIN has been an important resource, offering expert support to national civil society in Poland in its efforts to enact meaningful and effective whistleblower protection as a matter of democratic accountability and transparency. However, it is the work on the ground that counts. The Stefan Batory Foundation and its partner NGOs in Poland are doing what it takes to making strong whistleblower protection a feature of Polish life.

10th October 2018