Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore

Last updated on December 30, 2020

man with a whistle hanging around his neck

Being caught in a dilemma of whether to be a whistleblower or an informer can understandably be a stressful situation. One may righteously wish to expose wrongdoings of an unfair practice, corruption, or offences being committed to the higher-ups in your organisation to the authorities.

However, doing so involves several considerations – such as how much information to share, and the appropriate channel to report the matter – since it could put you in a vulnerable position, especially if your identity is disclosed. It is against this light that there are certain laws in place to protect whistleblowers and informers.

This article will discuss:

Who are Whistleblowers and Informers?

A whistleblower refers to someone who discloses information relating to activities going on within an organisation which, amongst others, are illegal, fraudulent and/or abusive. This person is usually an employee in the organisation.

An informer is a broad term that typically refers to a person who reports criminal activities to the authorities and may include a whistleblower.

Instances When You have a Duty to Give Information

Under the law, there are certain situations where you are bound to give information about the commission or the intention of a person to commit an offence.

For example, you must make a police report and provide information where you know that a person has committed or intends to commit the following offences:

  • Harbouring or concealing an offender to help the offender evade legal punishment
  • Causing fire, or contribute to the risk of causing fire that endangers human life and cause hurt or injury
  • Theft with the making of preparations to cause death or hurt or restraint
  • Robbery and/or gang-robbery
  • House-breaking
  • Forgery or counterfeiting currency or bank notes.

Further, you are also obliged to disclose information in relation to the following offences committed against the State:

  • Any attempts, abetting or actual waging of war against the Government
  • Plans to kill, hurt, unlawfully imprison or restrain the President
  • Plans to deprive or depose the President from his/her authority
  • The abetting of the offences listed above.

If it is later discovered that you have withheld information regarding any of the above offences committed against the State, you may be punished with imprisonment for up to 10 years, and/or be fined.

Making a police report

You may make a police report to provide information about criminal activity that you are aware of (especially if the potential offences are those as mentioned above). If you make a police report via the iWitness portal on the Singapore Police Force website, you have the option of doing so anonymously.

Are There Any Risks of Becoming a Whistleblower or an Informer?

One can imagine the risks that come with becoming a whistleblower or an informer.

Take the example of an employee who witnesses egregious misconduct of his employers. If this employee reports the misconduct either internally to the higher-ups or externally to the authorities, and no form of protection is in place – such that his identity is disclosed to the company, there are consequences that he may have to deal with.

For example, besides being fired from his position due to him being  a whistleblower, the employee may also find it difficult to secure employment at other places as a “known informer”. Further, he might be put in a vulnerable and threatened position if the employers were to go after him personally for exposing their wrongdoings.

How are Whistleblowers and Informers Protected in Singapore?

Unlike some other countries, Singapore does not have whistleblowing legislation in place. Nonetheless, there are specific laws which you could be aware of and look to for the safeguarding of informers.

Legislative protection

The following are some examples of legislation that contain safeguards for the protection of informers:

  • Prevention of Corruption Act;
  • Misuse of Drugs Act; and
  • Betting Act.

If you give information relating to the offences falling under the legislation listed above, these legislation provide that:

  • An informer’s name, address, or any matter which might lead to discovering his/her identity shall not be disclosed by any witness.
  • If any evidence, such as books, documents or papers are to be inspected during proceedings, the court will ensure that the informer’s details which may be found on the evidence(s) will be concealed or destroyed such that his/her identity will be protected.

Note that while an informer is accorded protection under the law, this privilege is not absolute. If the court finds that the informer had knowingly made a false statement in making the report, the informer’s identity may be disclosed.

Whistleblowing policies for employees

Certain government agencies and companies may also have their own whistleblowing policies for employees to make reports without fear of reprisal, discrimination or adverse consequences. These organisations typically have an independent Internal Audit Unit to manage the reporting channels in order to ensure confidentiality.

Channels for reporting

Whistleblowing policies usually expressly provide for the appropriate channel(s) to report wrongful practices or misconduct. These include reporting through an online form, sending an email or mailing a letter to a postal address.

Types of incidents to be reported 

The sort of information an informer may provide and the types of incidents for whistle-blowing may also be provided in the policies. For instance, workplace harassment, financial and non-financial malpractice, failure to comply with law and regulations are generally classified as reportable incidents.

Can employees remain anonymous when making a whistleblower report?

It is possible for a whistleblower to maintain anonymity. Such options are usually provided for in the whistleblowing policy.

However, the downside to remaining anonymous is that this may weaken the credibility of the information provided since the authorities are not able to make clarifications if needed, in turn hindering investigations.

What happens after employees make a whisteblower report?

After making a report, the information will be considered and assessed to see if further investigation(s) may be warranted.

Will Whistleblowers and Informers be Rewarded?

It is fairly uncommon for whistleblowers to be rewarded. There is, however, one instance where an informer could be rewarded.

This is where an informant provides information or documents relating to tax evasion. If such information or documents lead to the recovery of tax that would have been lost, he/she can request for a reward of 15% of the tax recovered, capped at $100,000. Note that IRAS retains full discretion as to whether to reward the informer.

Understandably, you may have many concerns when it comes to becoming an informer. You may wish to consider engaging a lawyer, who will be able to identify and share with you your rights and extent of protection under the law. An experienced lawyer would also be able to advise you on the appropriate steps to take in making a report.

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