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21 Jun 2018

Predictors Of Employees’ Intention To Whistleblow Using Theory Of Planned Behaviour: A Case Study Of An Indonesian Government Department

Bitra Suyatno
Victoria University


The purpose of this study was to facilitate opportunities for disclosure or whistleblowing in the Indonesian Directorate General of Taxation (DGT). Due to the inherent characteristics of tax-related crimes, in terms of cost, the impact of wrongdoing on State revenue amounts to losses of over a trillion rupiahs. Although many studies have been conducted to investigate factors that may support or deter one’s intention to whistleblow, due to the differences in values, cultures, and norms of each country, scholars agree that there is still a research gap in understanding variables and whistleblowing intention, and that there is a need to re-examine several variables related to whistleblowing in non-western countries. Thus, some variables have not been sufficiently recognised and examined in the Indonesian context. Moreover, differences may arise due to the particular characteristics of different organisations. Utilizing the theory of planned behaviour, this study investigated DGT employees’ intentions to disclose bribery, because it is difficult to study actual whistleblowing. Further, this study enriches the whistleblowing literature by selecting bribery as the type of wrongdoing for investigation and employing Schein’s six mechanisms to measure DGT leadership and organisational culture as perceived by the employees.

Initially, it was intended that this study would include all DGT employees by means of a survey administered via the internal internet at DGT’s head office. However, conducting research in Indonesia is often cumbersome because of bureaucratic processes. Notwithstanding, quantitative and qualitative analyses were applied to data gathered in 2016 from 641 questionnaires conducted with randomly selected DGT employees. Additionally, online interviews were conducted with high ranking officials and several key employees. Although this research was not carried out on behalf of the organisation (DGT), it received official approval and employees were encouraged to participate.

The primary model, based on attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control (PBC) showed that PBC (organisation positive image, organisation incentive, and organisation negative image) weakened the effect of the other two variables. This finding challenges previous research which endorses the effect of attitude and subjective norm. It was also found that PBC’s organisation negative image was the most important determinant for DGT employees in making a decision to disclose bribery. As well, in general, the study did not reveal a significant relationship between whistleblowing intention and the DGT employees’ demographic characteristics, training attendance, and knowledge about whistleblowing, and confidence about finding another job(s) outside DGT. This study also found that an anonymous internal reporting channel was the most preferred channel for disclosure. Moreover, this study did not find any difference between the intentions of whistle-blowers, bystanders, and non-observers. The findings, all together, indicated that the decision-making process in terms of disclosing bribery was complicated and strongly moderated by perceived behavioural controls of organisation positive image, negative image, and incentive as well as cultural norms.

The result is explained by the very pragmatic approach taken as a result of traditional cultural values (high power distance, collectivist, ewuh-pakewuh (uneasiness), nrima (to submit), conformity, peasant mentality, and hypocrisy) may lead to cost and benefit calculations before employees decide whether or not to whistleblow. Additional interesting information was that although financial incentive is considered as an important variable to encourage whistleblowing, the most important reward for DGT employees was placement to preferred location. Again, culture may play an important role to explain the phenomena.

The study however was restricted in so far that it considered only DGT employees in several large offices in Jakarta; thus, over-generalization of the findings should be avoided. A further limitation concerns the issue of comparing actual whistleblowing with the intention to do so. This issue requires future research comprising a longitudinal study involving a greater number of DGT employees and a different research design.

To sum up, respondents considered that regardless of their attitude, the amount of support received from people who were important to them (i.e. family member, direct supervisors, co-workers, friends, and neighbour), and their confidence about finding another job(s) outside DGT, these factors could not effectively protect them from any retaliation. Only the organization and the actions of high ranking superiors could provide whistle-blowers with sufficient protection and ensure that the report had a successful outcome. This study is useful to policy makers, practitioners, and academics in the field of whistleblowing. v

The study concludes with recommendations for whistle-blower policy in the Department of Taxation. The study provides some initial insights into employees’ opinions of the value of whistleblowing intention.

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