Latest Public Sector News

01.08.14

MPs calls for better whistleblower protection

Public sector whistleblowers have been shockingly treated, and departments have sometimes failed to protect some people from being victimised, in the past, an influential group of MPs have stated.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its ninth report of the session, which examined the subject of whistleblowing, which highlighted that the action is an important source of intelligence to help government identify wrongdoing and risks to public service delivery.

However, the MPs stated that many concerns go unreported, and the intelligence that does exist is not routinely collected and shared.

They believe it is essential that employees have trust in the system for handling whistleblowers, and confidence that they will be taken seriously, protected and supported by their organisations if they blow the whistle.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the PAC, said: “We have heard of too many cases of appalling treatment of whistleblowers by their colleagues, but departments were unable to tell us if those who have threatened or victimised whistleblowers had been sanctioned. When we spoke to Public Concern at Work they could recall only one case where an employee who victimised a whistleblower had been sanctioned.

“This lack of action has a profound impact on confidence and trust in the system, and means that employees are less likely to blow the whistle for fear of what may happen to them. In a survey of Ministry of Defence employees, only 40% of respondents felt they would not suffer reprisals if they raised a concern, and a survey of Department of Health employees found only 54% of respondents felt confident that they could speak up. Over one third of civil service employees do not even know how to raise a concern under the civil service code.”

The PAC has recommended that all government employees should be provided with a route map that shows how to report issues internally and externally. Private and third sector contractors to the public sector must also be obliged to have strong and effective whistleblowing policies in place.

It has also been suggested that departments should collect and apply intelligence on concerns raised by whistleblowers to identify any issues affecting the whole system. And the issue needs strong leadership from the Cabinet Office to ensure that whistleblowing can work effectively.

A government spokeswoman said: “All civil servants must be able to raise concerns so that poor services and inefficient operations can be identified and acted upon. That is why this government is ensuring people feel free to speak out. Awareness of how to raise a complaint has risen by 20% and two-thirds of civil servants feel that any complaint will be investigated properly.

“In addition, we are ensuring that all departments have a clear whistleblowing policy.”

While launching the report, the PAC members stated that they welcomed the recent announcement that Sir Robert Francis QC will lead an independent policy review into whistleblowing and creating a culture of openness and honesty in the NHS.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Johnar   02/08/2014 at 13:33

Following a reduction in staffing I found myself targeted for redundancy, and I'm convinced it is because I blew the whistle: 1) on a £100k potential mismanagement of an ERDF project, 2) about thefts from the ICT Department and 3) Because a colleague was appointed to a Schools role while awaiting a Court hearing for a 2nd case of Grievous Bodily harm. My treatment went to tribunal - and took over 3 years to resolve. The case was dragged out by the public sector organisation's legal team. There was no compromise (although I was offered a 'draconian' (my acting Solicitor's words) gagging order. The same organisation I worked for has been rumbled though. They have spent over £1m in the last 3 years on gagging. There was no protection at all. I know of others who have suffered as well. All I was doing was protecting my and the organisations interests. No one seemed interested.

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