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IDB boosts whistleblower protections, unveils new ethics code

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced a new code of ethics for its employees and further bolstered protections for whistleblowers, maintaining the IDB’s alignment with international best practices.

The new Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct uses more approachable and inclusive language and includes new subject areas, such as the use of social media, and provides better guidance on themes such as respect in the workplace and duties of supervisors.The Code establishes the IDB’s core values and guiding principles for employees, including their obligations as international civil servants.

All employees will be required to take an annual ethics training, with additional training for new or promoted staff.

The IDB has had a well-developed Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct since 1976, and has in recent years made several substantial reforms, such as establishing an Office of Ethics, which includes an Ethics Officer and professional staff, who are available to help employees understand their ethical obligations and to prevent and address misconduct.

The IDB has fostered an environment in which whistleblowers – employees and external parties – can report fraud, corruption and any other wrongdoing in IDB-financed activities without fear of reprisals. Recently approved changes provide greater clarity and support to whistleblowers on IDB resources available for reporting wrongdoing. They also include clearer definitions of prohibited retaliatory actions and introduce new procedures to support whistleblowers in raising concerns that their rights may have been violated.

The updated policy for whistleblower protection shifts the burden of proof to management to show that reprisals against whistleblowers have not occurred when the initial facts establish a case of retaliation. It also clarifies the duty of supervisors to report any misconduct and of IDB staff to cooperate with any investigation.

The IDB also approved regulations for a new mediation system which will go into effect early next year. With the help of professional mediators, employees will be provided with the opportunity to resolve work-related issues or grievances at the earliest possible stage.

“Our commitment to hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards will contribute to the success of our mission,” the President of the IDB Luis Alberto Moreno said. “Our work has an even greater impact when we do not simply prescribe good governance to others, but hold ourselves to those same high standards.”

In May 2011, Global Compliances Services Inc. completed an independent review of the IDB’s ethics, conduct and grievance systems. The vast majority of its approved recommendations have been implemented, and the remaining ones are expected to be completed by the end of the year. This joint effort between the Board of Executive Directors and Management has allowed the Bank to continue strengthening and improving the internal pillar of the IDB’s framework to combat corruption.

The changes build on IDB reforms over the past few years that have improved its effectiveness, transparency and accountability. The IDB’s current advances in this area follow a series of recent reforms to the IDB’s policies on public access to information and systems for adjudicating and sanctioning external parties alleged of prohibited practices in IDB-financed activities.