Agenda item

Whistleblowing Policy

Report of the Head of Internal Audit.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance presented the report on behalf of the Head of Internal Audit.

 

The latest guidance was reflected in the amended Policy, which had last been updated in 2008.  Due to the Senior Management changes currently taking place, some post names were incorrect and contact details had been left blank.  These would be updated before the policy was formally adopted by the Council.

 

Any feedback received from the Standards Committee, on areas relating to Members in the Policy, would be passed on to the Audit Committee.  Those areas concerning Officers would be looked at by the General Purposes Committee.

 

It was pointed out that there were various places in the Policy where no mention was made of Members (such as in question 5 on page 11).  The Head of Finance confirmed that Members should be included and that the wording would be amended.<1>  He explained that the Guidance had been aimed at businesses, but applied equally to Council Officers and Members.

 

Members were concerned that the Policy referred to disciplinary action.  They asked how such action would be taken against Members if the Standards Committee no longer existed.

 

The Standards Consultant advised that there was very little that the Council would be able to do in that case.  The offending Member could be removed from all Committees and could be banned from contact with Officers, but they could not be stopped from attending meetings of the full Council.  The only way a Member could appeal against such a ruling would be through the Judicial Review process.

 

He also pointed out that there was a potential gap in safeguarding members of the public, staff and Members, as the Policy did not cover harassment and bullying.  Neither he nor the Head of Finance were aware if the Council had a Harassment and Bullying Prevention Policy and agreed to check if this was already in place.<2>

 

A Member asked if a Whistleblower’s identity would be protected if their allegation turned out to be wilful or malicious.  The Head of Finance advised that the intention was to protect those making genuine allegations, even if they turned out to be incorrect. 

 

A Member asked if the Policy had ever been used before and if the police had been involved in cases of criminal offences.  The Head of Finance confirmed that he was aware of previous criminal proceedings.

 

It was pointed out that the list of external bodies that could be contacted, to raise concern to, would need careful monitoring to ensure it stayed up-to-date. 

 

The Standards Officer noted that the numbering of the Appendices was incorrect.

 

The Committee wished it to be made clear that their comments were made on the presumption that there would be a Standards Committee in place in the future. 

 

The Head of Finance said that the Guidance for Employees would be communicated to all staff and would be included in future staff and Member Induction Packs.  He thanked the Committee for their input and said that their queries and comments would be brought to the attention of the Audit Committee.

 

The Chairman thanked the Head of Finance for presenting the report to the Committee.

 

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