Proposals that could provide Highland Council employees with a new ‘independent, dedicated and confidential route’ to report malpractice and wrongdoing concerns have received support from Highland Councillors.
Following robust discussion, Members of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee have endorsed the movement of the management of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and its processes to the Council’s Fraud Team.
Councillors also agreed to recommend the approval of a revised Whistleblowing Policy and its implementation to the next meeting of The Highland Council on 29 October 2020.
‘Whistleblowing’ is legally defined in relation to malpractice and wrongdoing in relation to criminal offences; failure to comply with legal obligations; miscarriage of justice; health and safety danger of an individual; damage to the environment; and deliberate attempt to cover up of any of the latter.
Previously the Council’s pre-existing Whistleblowing Policy and reporting mechanism was managed by the organisation’s Human Resources team.
A review of this earlier policy was carried out in January and February 2020 prior to lockdown and a revised draft Whistleblowing Policy was discussed with Trade Unions during its development and then consulted with the Council’s Staff Partnership Forum in August.
The aim of the new Whistleblowing Policy is to encourage employees and workers (such as agency staff and key contractors) to come forward and report internally any serious concerns without being harassed or victimised for doing so.
The Council’s Fraud Team has a long track record of confidentially and sensitively investigating staff concerns; investigating allegations, identifying wrongdoing and taking appropriate action.
The Team can provide an established confidential telephone number, email address and updated online form for staff to use (anonymously if required) in this new revised approach to Whistleblowing.
A number of other Scottish Councils also operate similar arrangements.
Members were informed in a report to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee that the revised Whistleblowing Policy is in addition to other pre-existing routes through which staff can raise any concerns such as through the Council’s Grievance; and Bullying & Harassment Policies and procedures and existing Fraud reporting mechanisms.