City council staff were reported by colleagues for fraud, theft, substance abuse and discrimination last year as whistleblowing doubled in the space of 12 months.
There were 21 disclosures through City of Edinburgh Council workers ‘blowing the whistle’ on colleagues from December 2016 to November 2017, compared to 11 reports the previous year.
Of last year’s whistleblowing disclosures, 10 still remain under investigation, three have been closed and upheld, two have been closed and not upheld and six were deemed ‘non-qualifying disclosures’.
The Council spent £18,900 plus VAT on its whistleblowing service contract with Safecall from December 2016 to November 2017 and paid an additional £11,032 plus VAT for investigations after it was introduced by the authority in 2014.
In one case, staff raised concerns about theft by one of their colleagues in the community and families department. The latest annual whistleblowing report also highlights one disclosure of substance abuse in the resources department of the council, one health and safety complaint from health and social care, and one complaint of discrimination. There were also three complaints of unfair treatment and one of fraud.
Cllr Alasdair Rankin, Finance and Resources Convener, said: “It is encouraging to see that staff are aware of this relatively new service and have the confidence to use it, which may be why the numbers have increased.
“We welcome disclosures being made to us and where they don’t meet the criteria for the whistleblowing service, we always signpost and advise staff of the most appropriate route to raise any concerns.”
The council has been forced to postpone skills training for investigating officers until suitable nominees can be identified. Addressing the council’s Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee, governance compliance manager Laura Callender said: “What we plan to do is identify managers across the council who can act as investigating officers for us when we ourselves carry out investigations. There has been a lot of structural change in the council, lots of people leaving. We haven’t been able to do that at this point, but we’re hoping during the course of the next year to progress that and work with our colleagues in HR and Safecall to provide some investigations training.”
Unions welcomed the uplift but urged for more education for employees between whistleblowing and raising a complaint. John Stevenson, from the city council branch of Unison, said: “It’s good that the service is being used. Perhaps it highlights that people need to know more about the internal policy and procedures. People maybe need to understand the difference between whistleblowing and just raising a complaint.”
The council has renewed its contract with Safecall for another two years.