Application of systems thinking in evaluating the efficacy of whistle-blowing policy in the contact centre department : Eskom Eastern Region.
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Workplace corruption is a serious problem in South Africa which threatens to undermine our hard earned democracy. The devastating effects of workplace corruption are immeasurable and can lead to a major downfall of the sound economic development that people of this country have achieved. Awarding of tenders to incompetent and ill-prepared tenderers, recruiting and unfairly appointing unqualified candidates, contravening Health and Safety laws and endangering lives of the public are but few of the examples of corrupt activities that individuals and organizations commit. Disclosure of information about organizational malpractice is known as whistle-blowing. Individual employees are usually the first ones to know if any wrongdoing is taking place. It is choices that these individuals make which determine whether wrongdoing continues unnoticed or is exposed early enough. Whistle-blowing has been identified as an important tool that can assist organizations to detect internal problems and ultimately stop them before they become an emergency. In an effort to promote a culture of whistle-blowing, South Africa has developed legislation which seeks to address the problem of workplace corruption. The Protected Disclosures Act (No. 26 of 2000), otherwise known as the 'Whistle-blowers Act' makes provisions in terms of which employees in both the public and private sector who disclose information of corrupt conduct by their employers of fellow employees, are protected from occupational detriment. Eskom has its own whistle-blowing policy which in line with the requirements of the Protected Disclosures Act, seeks to address the problem of corruption within the organization. However, the increasing level of workplace corruption since the adoption of the Whistle-blowing policy seems to be alarming in the Eastern region. Certain Eskom departments in the Eastern Region, particularly the Contact Center, have lost a significant number of their staff to dismissals as a result of corruption and fraud. This is an indication that Eskom has committed itself as to be a corrupt free organization. However dismissing corrupt individuals cannot always be the best solution as it often has devastating effects to the organization in the long run. The application of Systems thinking tools, particularly the diagrams has been used in the study in order to uncover the underlying issues resulting to observed symptoms around whistle-blowing. Using a systematic approach this study investigated the views of managerial employees, non managerial employees and trade union leaders with regard to efficacy of the whistle-blowing policy in the Eastern Region. Managerial employees who were interviewed showed relative lack of understanding of the whistle-blowing policy and implications thereof. Non managerial workers who were interviewed during the course of this study also showed fear and preoccupation about saving their jobs rather than risk losing their careers by being conquerors of corruption. The findings further showed that organizational culture seems to concentrate mainly on understanding customer needs. This practice indicates that externally generated change takes precedence over proactive internal development. As Eskom is driven by the need to adapt to its ever-changing environment (in order to survive) this reduces the focus on internal developments, that is, creating the environment that is conducive for whistle-blowing to flourish. There does not seem to be effective mechanisms in place that could facilitate the disclosure of organizational misconduct in such a manner that it would benefit both individual (employees) disclosing wrongdoing and Eskom. Unintended consequences of dismissals seem also to be overlooked. The research concludes by recommending the greater use of the policy. This would entail intervention by top management, vigorous awareness campaigns and demystification of whistle-blowing.