Public Service Whistleblower: What are the rules?

Verified 16 February 2024 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

A whistleblower is an official (official or contract) who reports or discloses, without direct financial consideration and in good faith, the facts constituting an infringement.

The alert may cover:

  • Facts constituting a offense or a crime or facts which may be described as conflict of interest
  • Facts that pose a threat or harm to the public interest (e.g. release into the environment of substances known to be toxic)
  • A violation or attempt to conceal a violation of European law, law or regulation (e.g. a violation of the provisions prohibiting concealed work)
  • A violation or attempt to conceal a violation of an international undertaking ratified or approved by France or an act of an international organization undertaken on the basis of such an undertaking.

The whistleblower must have known the facts in the performance of his duties.

Where the information has not been obtained in the course of professional activities, the whistleblower shall have had personal knowledge of it.

The whistleblower may be an active agent or a former public agent where the information was obtained in the course of the professional activity.

The whistleblower may be a person who has applied for a job in the administration, where the information has been obtained in connection with that application.

Please note

Facts, information or documents covered by national defense secrecy, medical secrecy, the secrecy of judicial proceedings, the secrecy of judicial investigations or investigations and the professional secrecy of lawyers may not be reported or disclosed.

The procedure for reporting varies depending on whether the report relates to a conflict of interest or another offense.

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General case

The whistleblower may report the facts of which he is aware according to the internal procedure for the collection and processing of alerts set up by his administration.

Where no internal procedure exists for the collection and processing of reports, he may report the facts to a hierarchical superior, direct or indirect, to his employer (territorial authority, head of hospital establishment, etc.) or to a alert referent designated by his employer.

The whistleblower may also send an alert after having made an internal alert to his administration or directly to one of the following authorities:

  • Competent authority (administrative authority, independent public authority, independent administrative authority, professional body, specialized body responsible for collecting and processing alerts)
  • Defender of rights, who directs him to the authority or authorities most competent to deal with his report
  • Public Prosecutor

Where an external authority receives an alert and considers that it does not fall within its competence or that it also concerns other authorities, it shall forward it to the competent authority or to the Defender of Rights.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

Conflict of interest

The whistleblower may report to one of the hierarchical authorities to which he reports facts which may be characterized as conflicts of interest.

He may also give evidence of these facts to the ethics referent.

For example, it is a conflict of interest for a staff member who is to fill a post to have a personal relationship with a candidate for that post.

The whistleblower shall not be subject to any discriminatory or disciplinary measure because of its reporting, or threats or attempts to use such a measure.

The whistleblower shall not be subject to retaliation, threats or attempts to retaliate, in the following forms:

  • Damage, including reputational damage, especially on social media, or financial losses, including loss of business and income
  • Early termination or cancelation of a contract for goods or services
  • Cancelation of a license or permit
  • Abusive referral for psychiatric or medical treatment

Whistleblower who has reported or publicly disclosed information is not civilly and criminally responsible the damage caused by the alert if he had reasonable grounds to believe, when he made the alert, that the alert was necessary to safeguard the interests involved.

A public official who reports or testifies in bad faith, of facts liable to result in judicial sanctions, with the intention of harming or having knowledge, even partially, of the inaccuracy of the facts, may be imprisoned for five years and €45,000 of fine.