Whistleblowing, Corporate Governance in Pakistan
Whistleblowing is currently one of the hottest topics in the world of governance. Generally speaking, organisations consider the following to be advantages of a credible whistleblower program:
- Discover misconduct in a timely manner and take appropriate action
- Take care of things internally before it becomes a PR issue
- Reduce losses which are caused due to misconduct
- Build trust in your brand
- Ensure legal compliance (on hold currently in Pakistan)
- A tool which acts as a deterrent to misconduct at all levels
Always up for good change, we thought it would be great to introduce a new whistleblowing service to companies in Pakistan. Our software offers true anonymity whilst allowing 2-way communication and world class security for whistleblowers. We thought this would revolutionise the corporate governance landscape. So what might be a better way to introduce this earth-shattering service than emailing people currently offering whistleblowing options on their corporate web site? Little did we know that our quest for accountability and better governance would become an informal case study.
We started by looking for email addresses for web sites in Pakistan that allow whistleblowers to complain/blow the whistle. We tried various options and strict and loose searches – there are approximately 22,000 organisations registered with the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and approximately 559 listed companies on the Pakistan Stock Exchange.
We thought we will find at least a thousand email addresses that facilitate whistleblowing in Pakistan (at least all the listed companies and some from KCCI would have them). Much to our dismay we found a total of guess what… 28 email addresses! From ALL of Pakistan.
Undeterred we kept moving ahead – made a great explanatory email (mentioning 2-way anonymity, use via Tor browser, availability in multiple languages, encrypted files and so on) and scheduled it for mid-week, so that people aren’t too busy (mail shots on Mondays and Tuesdays tend to have low open rates). Explaining to the world that all their anonymity problems would be solved by our solution, available both in English and Urdu. The mail server was ready to go and we hit “Send”. Not 10 minutes in.. we got our first bounce (returned email)… yes! Out of the 28 email addresses having been setup in the country to facilitate whistleblowing – one email address did not even exist! Our dream of shaking up corporate governance was turning into a nightmare.
But we need to change the world and not give up hope. We throttled the send speed and it took almost 2 hours to send all the email and over this time we got another 3 bounced emails. From the grand total of 28 email addresses made specifically for whistleblowing from all over the country – 4 do not exist and only 24 were delivered.
And in these 2 hours, 3 companies had actually opened our email– finally we start to think that some people take corporate governance seriously and we had introduced them to a magical tool that would solve all their problems. And then NOTHING!
Nothing? Yes, its been more than a week today (Nov. 1, 2019), and only three companies out of the 24 have actually opened the email and hopefully read its content. Of these 3, none of them has shown interest (maybe their system is actually working). And the other 21? Haven’t even bothered to check the mail – not even one of the most promoted “speakup” email in Karachi!
- Email addresses found: 28
- Emails bounced: 4
- Emails opened: 3
In addition, during our search we came across a mixed approach to addressing the situation, some companies had embedded forms on their web site, some of them actually required the whistleblower to provide their name and CNIC details.
Seems like everything else in Pakistan, there’s no urgency to improve governance also. Feel free to get in touch if you find anything confusing – or if you would like to take a look at our system. Does this match your experience? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or contact us.