APEC Schools is committed to high standards of integrity and accountability in all areas of our business. We expect employees, and others that we deal with, who have serious concerns about any aspect of the school to come forward and voice those concerns.
To encourage directors, officers, employees, business partners, suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors to report serious concerns about a perceived wrongdoing, malpractice or a risk involving APEC Schools, we are establishing the Whistleblower Policy to provide the guiding principles and procedures in reporting and investigating reported concerns.
Additionally, employees have a responsibility to ensure that they, their colleagues and others working in the school follow safe working practices so that students are kept safe at all times. Employees must also understand that they have a duty to report unsafe practices that could lead to a child being harmed or put at risk of harm. Failure to report such practices may lead to disciplinary action being taken against them if as a result of the failure to report, a child is harmed or put at risk of harm.
OBJECTIVES AND COVERAGE
This Policy is formulated to provide a formal mechanism and an avenue for directors, officers, employees, business partners, suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors of APEC to raise such concerns. The Policy provides an assurance that a person who will raise a concern (the “Whistleblower”) will be protected from reprisals, harassment or disciplinary action or victimization for whistleblowing.
This Policy shall be enforced regardless of position level, rank and employment status.
The APEC School’s Integrity Committee (the “Committee”) will be responsible for administering this policy and may modify this Policy at any time without notice. Modification may be necessary, among other reasons, to maintain compliance with regulations and laws and/or to accommodate organizational changes within APEC Schools.
The Committee is composed of one representative each from Chain and Branch chaired by the Head of Human Resources.
AIMS AND SCOPE OF POLICY
This policy aims to:
• give confidence to members of staff about raising concerns about conduct or practice which is potentially illegal, corrupt, improper, unsafe or unethical or which amounts to malpractice or is inconsistent with school standards and policies so that they are encouraged to act on those concerns
• provide members of staff with avenues to raise concerns
• ensure that members of staff receive a response to the concerns they have raised and feedback on any action taken
• offer assurance that members of staff are protected from reprisals or victimisation for whistleblowing action undertaken in good faith
There are existing procedures in place to enable members of staff to lodge a grievance relating to their own employment. This policy does not enable them to raise a concern about a breach of their own contract of employment. The Whistleblowing Policy is intended to cover major concerns that fall outside the scope of other procedures.
TYPES OF CONCERNS COVERED
• Any violation of the Employee Manual or actions that otherwise amount to serious improper conduct and corrupt practices;
• A violation of the laws or rules of a country, locality, or any jurisdiction in which APEC Schools operates, including committing fraud or other criminal acts;
• Violations of internal accounting controls or actions that may lead to incorrect or fraudulent financial reporting or accounting practice;
• Mismanagement or gross misuse or misappropriation of APEC’s assets and resources, including unauthorized use of funds;
• Conflict of interest situation;
• Any unethical or illegal conduct:
• Potential maladministration, misconduct or malpractice
• Harassment, whether it be sexual, physical or emotional
• Any conduct that is likely to have an adverse effect on our reputation, including the inappropriate use of social media and other technologies;
• Any action that has caused or is likely to cause physical danger or serious risk to students, staff, health, school property or the environment; or
• Any other conduct similar or related to the foregoing.
PROTECTION FROM RETALIATION
The Whistleblower will be protected from reprisals, harassment or disciplinary action or victimization as a result of any disclosure or raising of a concern or relaying of information (the “Report”) where it is made in good faith believing the disclosure to be true and is not made maliciously or for personal gain.
If a report made in good faith is not subsequently confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against the Whistleblower who made the report.
APEC Schools will not tolerate any harassment or any act of threat against the Whistleblower who, in good faith, reported a suspected fraud or submitted evidences during the course of investigation. Any harassment or retaliatory action shall be subject to disciplinary or legal action pursuant to relevant policies and procedures of APEC Schools, and any applicable laws.
ANONYMOUS ALLEGATIONS AND REPORTING
Staff should put their name to allegations whenever possible to allow the investigating committee access to further information if needed. Nonetheless anonymous allegations may be considered under this whistleblowing procedure especially concerns raised relating to the welfare of children. The Whistleblower that files a report may choose to provide a manner by which he/she can be contacted without jeopardizing his/her anonymity. Such means shall include, but it is not limited to using an e-mail address, a pre-paid mobile, etc.
In relation to determining whether an anonymous allegation will be taken forward the Committee will take the following factors into account:
• the seriousness of the issue raised
• the credibility of the concern
• the likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources, and obtaining information provided.
UNTRUE OR FALSE REPORT
If a member of staff makes an allegation in good faith but it is not confirmed by further inquiry the matter will be closed and no further action taken.
If, however, the inquiry shows that untrue allegations were malicious and/or vexatious or made for personal gain then the Committee will consider taking disciplinary action against the employee concerned. In the most serious of cases. This may include dismissal.
Should it be determined by the Committee that a Whistleblower knowingly and intentionally, whether orally or written, (a) reported or submitted a Report containing false allegations or (b) presented fabricated evidence, the Whistleblower shall be subject to disciplinary or legal action pursuant to the policies and procedures of APEC, and any applicable laws.
False Reports are considered a fraud that APEC Schools has the right to act upon.
All Reports shall be treated in confidence and the identity of the Whistleblower will not be disclosed if the Whistleblower so prefers, unless the Whistleblower will be required to stand as a witness in court. APEC is not accountable for maintaining anonymity where the Whistleblower has told others of the Report or the subject concern.
ALLEGATIONS CONCERNING CHILD PROTECTION ISSUES
If an employee raises a concern relating to a child protection issue, the Chair of the Child Protection Committee (or Head of School Operation if the concern is about the School Head) must deal with the matter in accordance with the School’s Child Protection Policy.
APEC Schools provides different channels for the Whistleblower to send or communicate a Report. The following are dedicated reporting channels:
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Face-to-face meeting with the Integrity Committee
Postal Mail address to the Chair of the Integrity Committee
Whistleblowers should put their concern in writing for the avoidance of doubt. They should set out the background and history of the concern; giving names, dates and places where possible, and explaining the reason for their concerns. If they feel unable to put the matter in writing they can still raise their concern verbally and should telephone or arrange to meet the appropriate person.
TIMESCALE FOR RESPONSE
The member of staff will normally receive a written response within 5 school days (except in the case of anonymous allegations):
• acknowledging that the concern has been received
• indicating how it is proposed to deal with the matter
• giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response
• advising whether any enquiries have been made
• advising whether further enquiries will take place
• informing them of support available whilst matters are looked into and
• following the outcome of the investigation
• maintaining confidentiality wherever possible, but also explaining that it may not be possible that they can remain anonymous.
The first point of contact will seek to keep the employee informed of progress with their concern in a timely manner. However the timescales to be followed will vary depending on the nature of the issue raised and the procedure that is being followed to address the matter.
If an employee or officer is the subject of a Report, the Report shall be endorsed to the Committee for evaluation. If it is determined by the Committee that an investigation is warranted, the Committee through the Head of Human Resources shall discreetly conduct a fact-finding investigation. Upon determination by the Head of Human Resources that there is reasonable ground to believe that the employee or officer (the “Respondent”) is committing or has committed the concern reported or disclosed, the Committee shall endorse its findings to Human Resources Department (“HRD”). A formal administrative investigation shall then be conducted by the HRD in accordance with the Employee Manual specifically the procedures for handling violations.
If a personnel of Human Resources Department, or the Board of Directors or a member of the Committee is the subject of a Report, the Committee shall endorse the Report to the Office of the General Counsel for appropriate action.
If a supplier, business partner, contractor or sub-contractor is the subject of a Report, existing policies of APEC shall apply.
Upon completion of the full investigation process, it is the responsibility of the Committee to evaluate the case and decide on the resolution to be effected. The members of the Committee shall observe due process to adjudicate on the basis of the evidence, information and facts gathered and have a duty of objectivity, fairness, thoroughness, ethical behavior, and observance of legal and professional standards. A fair and just resolution shall be made for all cases escalated to the Committee.
All cases must be resolved within a reasonable time as determined by the Committee from the time all relevant documents have been obtained.
Upon approval of the final resolution, the case records, including all documentation and evidence:
For employee or officer, shall be kept by the HRD. Maintenance of a case file for each of the allegations shall be the responsibility of the HRD. A copy of the case file shall also be kept in the personnel records (also known as 201 file) of the employee.
For supplier, business partner, contractor or sub-contractor, shall be kept by the responsible employee who monitors the accreditation and blacklisting of the suppliers/contractors.
The case records, including all documents and evidences will the retained in accordance with the retention policy of APEC.
A summary of all reports received will be maintained separately for employees and suppliers.
The Report Status Summary for both employees and suppliers will be submitted to the Committee periodically. The Committee shall be responsible to review and evaluate all reports received. Any long outstanding reports will be examined to be able to make a right and just resolution to close the whistleblower report.
This Policy does not overwrite the Respondent’s right to be notified and heard in accordance with general labor employment law on due process. The Respondent shall be invited during the full investigation process with reasonable period of time to respond and react on the case presented against him/her. The specific rights and responsibilities of the Respondents are as follows:
• Respondents have a duty to cooperate with investigators to the extent that cooperation will not compromise self-incrimination protections under law;
• Respondents have a right to consult with person(s) of their choice, which may involve representation, including legal representation;
• Respondents may at any time retain their own counsel to represent them with regard to the investigation;
• Respondents are not allowed to interfere with an investigation. Evidence shall not be withheld, destroyed or tampered with, and witnesses shall not be coached, influenced, intimidated, or retaliated against;
• Respondents should be given the opportunity to respond to material points of evidence contained in an investigation report unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary;
• An allegation of wrongdoing against a respondent shall not be considered sustained unless, at a minimum, a preponderance of the evidence supports the allegation; and
• Respondents have a right to be informed of the results of the investigation.
RESIGNATION OF RESPONDENT
In the event that a Respondent who is an employee, officer or Director of the Corporation resigns during the pendency of an investigation, the same shall continue based on the evidence submitted or gathered thus far.
WITHDRAWAL OF REPORT BY THE WHISTLEBLOWER
Notwithstanding that the Whistleblower withdraws his/her report, the investigation shall continue provided that the evidence gathered is sufficient.
DISSEMINATION OF THE POLICY
The HRD shall be responsible for the public dissemination of this Policy and its Implementing Rules. Where necessary, the HRD shall arrange the training of the members of the Integrity Committee and other persons who will be involved in the implementation of this Policy.
REVIEW OF THIS POLICY
This document shall be reviewed every three (3) years, but, an update may be made earlier for reasonable and appropriate reasons.