Whistleblowing Goes Digital and Shapes Governance

In 2013, weeks after joining Australian construction giant Leighton Holdings (now CIMIC Group), Sylvain Mansotte found an AUD 20 million invoicing fraud.

Mansotte identified that a finance manager who had been with the company for several decades had used his position to fund an extravagant lifestyle of overseas holidays, racehorses, and mistresses.

Blowing the whistle on this wrongdoing ultimately resulted in a 15-year jail sentence for the finance manager but it wasn’t an easy road for Mansotte, who found impediments and challenges in the process of bringing the case to the attention of his employers and having them take it seriously.

“My entire world turned upside down,” said Mansotte. "I was the guy with the gun in his hand, and I knew if I pulled that trigger, I could destroy the life of a family and a guy who had been at Leighton for 30 years and was six months away from retirement.”

Anonymity at Stake

In actually reporting the corruption, Mansotte was initially reluctant to approach any of his colleagues and did not feel confident in speaking to the third-party organization appointed by the company because it would compromise the anonymity he felt was necessary for him.

His French accent, he believed, was a giveaway in Australia and would have the unwelcome consequence of identifying him.

“Do you go to a third-party organization who knows nothing about you, and who is potentially going to go back to your organization and tell them,” said Mansotte.

Although he stayed at Leighton after this incident and was promoted, the events started Mansotte thinking about a better solution for whistleblowers.

The result was an online solution that developed into Whispli, a secure and anonymous two-way communication solution used not just for corporate whistleblowing, but for reporting sexual harassment and bullying in schools and universities.

Empowering Governance

In Australia, the Federal Government has passed new whistleblowing laws that transform a whistleblower being seen as someone who “leaks” to an asset in making organizations more transparent and accountable. In this way, Whispli is both a regtech solution driving better organizational performance and a human resources solution.

Users of Whispli can communicate anonymously and continuously through a secure messaging platform with either designated areas in the organization or with third parties. After initial contact, they can answer questions, provide more details and progress the issue, accessing Whispli from anywhere using a password and a case identification number.

The idea is to take these very sensitive conversations to what Whispli calls “a safe place.” It enables two-way and anonymous communication through a number of channels, from web forms, SMS, chat and email. Users can send documents and text messages that are encrypted as well as audio recordings with voices altered for anonymity.

“It creates one single source for the reporting of misconduct and wrongdoing,” said Mansotte. “Some clients have said they get four times as many reports using Whispli, so it is definitely helping people come forward.”

There is the option of extending Whispli through a flexible API that provides data access for all integrations, while all the apps are kept in synch and conversations can be translated and integrated with HRIS data.

Whistleblowing standard

After its adoption by hundreds of organizations around the world, such as Coca-Cola, Qantas and Oxfam, Mansotte left Australia for Boston in the U.S. to continue to drive his business, with the aim of making it the standard digital whistleblowing solution for organizations, including the corporate sector, Government and not for profits.

Already, Whispli is winning plaudits from clients, as seen in these testimonials.

“Whispli is hands down the most watertight way to catch and manage wrongdoing in your organization," said Topshop and Gluestore risk and compliance manager Mark Boyd.

“If you’re not using it, then you’re not serious about preventing fraud or corruption.”

At newspaper publisher Fairfax, investigative journalist Nick McKenzie said he has had contact from sources using Whispli he believes would have never previously contacted him.

“It has the potential to change the way people all over the world interact with investigative reporters to pass on vital information.”