Edinburgh Council whistleblower inquiry must be transparent from start to finish – John McLellan

As the inquiry into Edinburgh Council’s management culture chaired by Susanne Tanner QC gets underway, there is an expectation that every past or present employee with important information will be able to give evidence without fear or undue restraint.

By John McLellan
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 12:30 pm
Susanne Tanner QC will lead the inquiry into Edinburgh Council’s whistleblowing and organisational culture
Susanne Tanner QC will lead the inquiry into Edinburgh Council’s whistleblowing and organisational culture

So last week my colleague Cllr Cameron Rose asked for a report into how the inquiry will handle so-called non-disclosure or “gagging” agreements which witnesses may have signed, a significant issue for this investigation.

The SNP-Labour coalition could not bring itself to agree that officers should spell out the arrangements, but declared that anyone under such deals will not be prevented from speaking to the inquiry and “any non-disclosure agreement cannot prevent employees from making protected disclosures under whistleblowing legislation, regardless of any confidentiality provisions”.

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Even on a non-party political matter like this, it seems the coalition leadership cannot bear to see anything the Conservative group proposes going through, so now the inquiry will rely on processes which are not as clear as they could be.

It’s still uncertain if Ms Tanner’s report will be published in full; her remit simply says a written report shall be provided to the council and “the Independent Chair will report publicly on the Review's findings”.

That’s not quite the same thing, and while it might be splitting hairs an absolute commitment to full disclosure is still needed

Of course, the result could be a clean bill of health for the council, but without start-to-finish transparency that outcome would lack the full credibility it needs.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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