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Government refuses to expand whistleblowing policies

Government whistleblower protection policies will not be expanded despite a recommendation from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In its response to the PAC’s 2015-16 reports, the Cabinet Office said it would not introduce a specific requirement for the wider public sector and private and voluntary sector partners to have effective whistleblowing policies.

It said it had decided that existing legal requirements in the Public Interest Disclosure Act were strong enough, and that additional safeguards should be introduced in individual contracts.

However, it said the Cabinet Office is “currently considering” creating a “standard mechanism” for whistleblower protection.

The response also said that there were no plans for the task and finish group, established in 2015 to review whistleblowing practices to meet again.

“The government’s strong view is that encouraging continuous improvement around whistleblowing practices within departments is better achieved through other mechanisms such as regular reporting of and discussion about cases”, it added.

The report said 90% of government departments have now updated their whistleblowing policies.

It also said there were 68 reported cases of whistleblowing across 14 government departments between April and September last year, although it admitted that there were variations in the data reporting.

The government also rejected a recommendation that it revise its approach to early intervention in major projects, despite another PAC report raising serious concerns about the government’s ability to ensure projects stay within budget.

It also rejected recommendations that government suppliers be made directly accountable to Parliament, saying it felt this “would further diminish the attractiveness of doing business with government”.

However, it said it was requiring departments to develop blueprints on how they would improve their contract management and publishing new standards for commercial activity.

It also said it fully accepted the recommendations of a report finding serious failings in the performance of contractors for disability benefits assessments, and would implement improvements, including publishing data on contractors’ performance and requiring them to undergo training on dealing with clients with mental health problems.

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