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Applauding the messenger

Professor David Lewis and Osita Mba
Professor David Lewis and Osita Mba

Whistleblowing Award celebrates bravery of those who speak out

Whistleblowers – workers who disclose wrongdoing at an organisation – are often treated as 'villains' by their employers, but here at Middlesex University, Professor of Employment Law David Lewis is working hard to reframe these courageous employees as 'heroes'.

"Whistleblowers serve private and public interests when they raise concerns about wrongdoing," says Professor Lewis, the Convener of the International Whistleblowing Research Network.

"However, rather than encouraging them, many employers have victimised the purveyors of bad news. The annual Middlesex University UK Whistleblowing Award is an attempt to change attitudes, so that whistleblowers are recognised as heroes rather than villains."

The recipient of this prestigious prize in 2014 was Osita Mba, who suffered the ignominy of having his private phone records examined by HM Revenue and Customs, after he exposed a £10 million interest settlement it had made with Goldman Sachs while he was working on the personal tax litigation team.

Osita Mba and Amanda Pollard
Amanda Pollard presents Osita Mba with his award

Trained solicitor Mba received his award during a ceremony at the University in June from 2013 winner Amanda Pollard, who herself was accused of acting out of spite rather than in the public interest by her former employer, the Care Quality Commission, whose inspection standards she had criticised.

Addressing the audience during the event, both winners revealed the extent of the personal sacrifice they, and other whistleblowers, make in trying to do the right thing.

Not only do their roles at work often become untenable, they also face the prospect of being thrust into the public limelight. Both Mba and Pollard received considerable coverage in the national press following their revelations.

"Our winners were very brave in speaking out in difficult circumstances, and that is why here at Middlesex University, we gather to applaud, rather than shoot, the messenger," Professor Lewis added.

David has written numerous papers on the subject of whistleblowing during his career. These have appeared in a number of books and journals, including the Athlone Press title Whistleblowing at Work, which he edited.

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