Agenda Item No. 12
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Audit Committee: 28th April 2014
Report of the Head of Accountancy and Resource Management
Audit Committee - Whistle Blowing Policy and Procedure
Purpose of the Report
1. To present to Members the Council's revised Whistle Blowing Policy and Procedure for information.
1. THAT Members endorse the revised Whistle Blowing Policy prior to its consideration by full Council.
Reason for the Recommendation
1. To keep the Audit Committee informed and up to date on the new Whistle Blowing Policy and Procedure.
2. On 24th March 2014 Cabinet approved an amended Whistle blowing Policy, its administration and the reporting procedures. Cabinet minute number C2254 resolved that :
"The amended Whistle Blowing Policy (including the Leader's change above) as attached at Appendix B to the report, its administration and the reporting procedures be approved.
The draft Whistle blowing Policy be referred to a meeting of full Council for inclusion in the Council's Constitution.
The additional information appended to the draft Policy to assist workers and their line mangers who may be working under a collaborative agreement to raise Whistle Blowing concerns with the appropriate organisation when the employment or the service responsibility falls outside of that of the Council be noted."
3. The Council's Whistle Blowing Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise concerns with the Council without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or embarrassment.
4. The Whistle Blowing Policy plays an important part in meeting the Council's commitment to openness, honesty and ethical propriety and compliments the objectives of a number of other Council policies and supports the Council's Anti-Fraud and Bribery Policy and the Code of Conduct for Qualifying Employees of the Council.
5. It was therefore considered necessary that the Council's existing Whistle blowing Policy was reviewed in order to ensure that it reflects recent legislative changes, up to date contact details and responds to the recommendations made following the completion of an Internal Audit report.
Relevant Issues and Options
6. The revised draft Whistle blowing Policy is attached at Appendix A, it reflects the changes implemented by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. A summary of these changes is listed below:-
Revision made to draft policy
A change in the definition of Co-worker
Policy amended to include reference to temporary employees, trainees and those workers employed through an agency and "independent contractors".
The implementation under the legislation of a "public interest test", the previous requirement that a "disclosure" clearly afforded legal protection if the worker made the qualifying disclosure in "good faith" is removed. The current test applicable on or after 25th June 2013 requires a concern reported by the worker in the public interest which in the reasonable belief of the worker tends to show one or more of the following:
- Illegal practices;
- A failure to comply with the legal obligation;
- The health and safety of an individual whether this is a member of public or staff being endangered;
- Damage to the environment;
- Miscarriage of justice;
- Deliberate concealment of any of the above.
All references to disclosures made "in good faith" have been amended to comply with the legislation so that a qualifying or protected disclosure is a disclosure of information made in the public interest, the worker reasonably believing that the disclosure is made in the public interest.
Provisions implemented under the new legislation which introduces employer liability for victimisation of "Whistle Blows" by co-workers and / or an agent of the employer.
The new draft Policy has been revised to include the following co-employees who victimise whistle blowers can be made personally liable for their own conduct, and the Council could be held vicariously liable if it has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent victimisation.
7. The new draft Policy includes additional provisions including guidance for workers and their line managers to assist them in reporting their concerns under the Whistle blowing Policy and progressing this within the Council.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
8. None as a direct consequence of this report.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
9. None directly from this report
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
10. The law on Whistle Blowing was previously contained in the Employment Rights Act 1996 which was amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and affords employment protection to any worker who makes a "protected disclosure". The legislation provides protection to the worker against victimisation and additional protection for those workers who report their concerns outside of the authority where there is no existing Whistle Blowing Policy or effective whistle blowing arrangements in existence within the Authority.
The draft Policy takes account of the changes necessary to respond to the requirements within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
The Council has a commitment in its Anti-Fraud and Bribery Policy to confidential reporting which is afforded equal consideration with the draft Whistle Blowing Policy.
Crime and Disorder Implications
11. The Whistle Blowing Policy will provide the means for all workers to raise suspicions of any concerns including potential criminal matters through an open and transparent process without fear of repercussions.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
12. The Council incorporates the statutory equalities duties which apply to all its activities into policies and services as appropriate.
13. The Policy will provide the means for workers to support the Council's strategic Core Value to achieve Transparency so that the decisions of the Council and the application of the policies are open and provide a means for concerns to be raised where necessary.
Policy Framework and Budget
14. The proposals in this report are in accordance with the policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
15. No further consultation is proposed.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
16. Corporate Resources.
Helen Smith - Operational Manager - Audit Tel: 01656 754901
External Audit Manager - Grant Thornton UK LLP
Alan Jenkins - Head of Accountancy and Resource Management