The Council wants to give you the opportunity to voice concerns if you believe there is serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the Council.  The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013) gives legal protection to individuals against being dismissed or penalised by their employers as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious concerns.  These provisions ensure that no-one should be disadvantaged in raising legitimate concerns.

This section will help you if:

  • You are an employee who wants to voice concerns about serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the Council
  • You are a manager who has had concerns about serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the Council raised to you
  • You are the Monitoring Officer
  • You have been appointed as the Investigating Officer to investigate a whistleblowing complaint
  • You are a Head of Service who receives action points from the Monitoring Officer once the investigation has been done

1. Overview

The Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure applies to all employees and workers, including agency staff, workers who are self-employed, sub-contractors and workers employed by an outsourced contractor providing Council services.  The policy allows you to voice concerns in relation to information you believe shows serious malpractice or wrongdoing within Aberdeen City Council.  This could be in respect of a concern raised by you against a more senior employee or against an employee at the same level in the organisation as you.  It allows for this information to be disclosed internally without fear of reprisal and independently of your line management if appropriate. 

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013) gives you legal protection against being dismissed or penalised by the Council as your employer as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious concerns.  These provisions ensure that no-one should be disadvantaged in raising legitimate concerns.

This policy is intended to encourage and enable you to raise serious concerns within the Council rather than overlooking the issue or raising your concerns outside the Council.  It should not, however, be used to reconsider matters which have already been addressed by other policies e.g. Managing Bullying and Harassment, Managing Discipline, Managing Grievances.

The policy applies to all employees and workers, including agency staff, workers who are self-employed, sub-contractors and workers employed by an outsourced contractor providing Council services.

A Whistleblowing FAQs/Quick Guide is also available.


2. Principles

This policy is intended to cover concerns which are in the public interest and may, at least initially, be investigated separately but then may lead to other procedures being invoked e.g. Managing Discipline. To be protected as a whistleblower you need to make a qualifying disclosure about malpractice where one or more of the following has been, is being or is likely to be committed:

  1. a criminal offence;
  2. a failure or likely failure to comply with any legal obligation;
  3. a miscarriage of justice;
  4. putting health and safety of any individual in danger;
  5. damage to the environment; or
  6. deliberate concealment relating to any of the above.

There are some disclosures that can’t be qualifying disclosures.  You won’t be protected for whistleblowing if:

  • The law is broken when making a disclosure
  • The information is protected under legal professional privilege (e.g. if the information was disclosed for the purpose of obtaining legal advice).

The policy aims to encourage individuals to feel confident in raising serious concerns and to question and act on any concerns they may have about malpractice, regardless of the level of seniority in the Council. The policy provides a means for you to raise concerns and to receive feedback on any action taken. This policy is designed to offer protection to anyone who discloses reasonably and responsibly any concerns as above, provided the disclosure is made –

  • With a reasonable belief it is in the public interest;
  • With a reasonable belief that the act has taken place and it is disclosed to an appropriate person;
  • With compliance to the provisions of the procedure.

All complaints will be treated in confidence, however, if you raise concerns you may be called as a witness at a later stage.

Whilst it is hoped the Whistleblowing Policy will reassure employees to raise concerns internally, the Council accepts that employees may wish to contact an appropriate external body.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of External Prescribed Regulators which may be relevant.


3. Reporting a Concern

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You wish to raise a concern which may be covered by the Whistleblowing policy

You have a right and a duty to raise any concerns which you may have regarding the services provided by the Council or any serious malpractice associated with them. 

Initially your concerns should be reported to line management or, in the case of the self-employed and contractors, the appropriate officer managing the contractual arrangements. Advice and support can be taken from a Trade Union or work colleague. If this is not appropriate or would be difficult then you should seek to contact your Service Manager or Head of Service.  If this is not appropriate the formal part of the procedure can be invoked at this stage and you may contact the Monitoring Officer (currently the Head of Legal and Democratic Services).

Once the initial concern has been lodged and it has been confirmed that it will be dealt with as a whistleblowing issue, all appropriate protection in terms of the law will apply from this point.

Wherever possible, you should raise concerns in writing, identifying the nature of the concern and the grounds on which this is based. Information on the background, history, names, dates and places should be provided if possible.  If you do not feel able to raise concerns in writing, you may raise concerns verbally by phone or at a meeting with the appropriate manager.


4. Determining How the Complaint will be Dealt With

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You are a manager who has had concerns about serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the Council raised to you

As a manager, when you receive a complaint you should first consider whether the matter could be dealt with informally, if it is a minor issue, or whether another policy or procedure is more applicable, before deciding whether to refer the matter to the Monitoring Officer as a whistleblowing complaint.  Please refer to the Consideration of other Policies around making this determination.

Once you have decided that you believe the complaint is a whistleblowing complaint, you should inform the Council’s Monitoring Officer by completing the Proforma to Monitoring Officer. It is recommended that this should take no longer than 5 working days. The Monitoring Officer has the final determination on whether the complaint is indeed a whistleblowing complaint.

You should also write to the individual using this Letter to Individual from Manager receiving the Complaint to inform them that their concern has been acknowledged, and how it will be dealt with.  Where you feel that the matter should be dealt with under another policy, the appropriate route should be progressed to take the matter forward.


5. Invoking the Formal Procedure

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You are the Monitoring Officer

On receiving the Proforma to Monitoring Officer, the Monitoring Officer will check whether it relates to the acts or Examples of Whistleblowing which qualify for protection. The Monitoring Officer will write to the person who raised the concern to acknowledge their concern and confirm whether protection under the procedure applies.  It is the responsibility of the Monitoring Officer to:

  1. Make the determination as to whether the concern qualifies for protection within the policy.  It is recommended that this should take no longer than 5 working days.
  2. Appoint an appropriate Investigating Officer to look into the concern raised, with a view to reporting back within a reasonable timescale.  It is recommended that this should take place no more than 5 working days after it is determined that the Whistleblowing policy applies.
  3. Confirm with the person who raised the concern the initial determination relating to the concern and the name of the Investigating Officer.

6. The Formal Investigation

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You are the Monitoring Officer
  • You have been appointed as the Investigating Officer to investigate a whistleblowing complaint

The Monitoring Officer will appoint a suitable Investigating Officer who has the necessary skills and knowledge to investigate the registered concern and also to determine whether it is appropriate to be investigated within or outwith the Service involved.

Where the concern relates to an issue of financial irregularity, the matter will be dealt with in accordance with financial regulations. However, in these circumstances, you as the Investigating Officer should maintain communication with the Monitoring Officer to allow a response to be made to the individual who raised the concern.

As the Investigating Officer you should:

  • Source and scrutinise all available facts in order to report to the Monitoring Officer. This may include interviewing others who may, or may not, be employees of the Council. It is recommended that the investigation is completed within the target date of 20 working days or to an agreed timescale.
  • Maintain regular contact with the person who has raised the concern to update them on progress of the investigation.
  • Compile a written report for the Monitoring Officer. The report should comment on the validity of the concern and recommend any action the Council should take to make good any identified failings. However, the final decision as to the scope of the investigation and the outcome of the concern is that of the Monitoring Officer alone.

Reporting to external bodies

  • If there is evidence of criminal activity, you should inform the police. Any internal investigation should not interfere with any police investigation.

7. Outcome of the Concern

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You are the Monitoring Officer
  • You have raised a concern which has been investigated under the Whistleblowing policy
  • You are a Head of Service who receives action points from the Monitoring Officer once the investigation has been done

Once the Monitoring Officer receives the Investigating Officer’s report, a meeting will be held with you as the individual who raised the concern.  At the meeting the Monitoring Officer will explain the outcome and the reasons for the decision. This decision will be confirmed in writing to you within 5 working days from the date of the meeting.

In most circumstances, the Monitoring Officer should release the full report to you. However, where there are issues which are confidential, which contain personal information about individuals or, for any other justifiable reason, only the parts of the report which exclude the sensitive information will be released.

At the meeting you may be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union representative.

Following the outcome, the Monitoring Officer will write to the relevant Head of Service to communicate any action points arising from the whistleblowing concern. These must be implemented within the timescales set by the Monitoring Officer.  Any non-compliance with the requirements of the Monitoring Officer will then be reported to the Chief Executive and, should the matter remain unresolved within an eight week period, the Monitoring Officer will report the matter to the next available meeting of the full Council. The Monitoring Officer is also responsible for reporting the number, and progress, of all whistleblowing concerns to each meeting of the appropriate Committee.


8. Right of Appeal

This section will be useful for you if:

  • You have raised a concern which has been investigated under the Whistleblowing policy

If you are dissatisfied with the determination of the Monitoring Officer in the conclusions and action to be taken, you should contact Public Concern at Work, an independent external organisation that can advise on progressing whistleblowing issues.

If you are not satisfied that this procedure has been applied properly or appropriately, you have the right to appeal via the Council’s Managing Grievance policy.  Any procedural issue raised regarding a whistleblowing concern will be considered at the formal stage of the Grievance Procedure by a senior manager with no previous involvement in the case.  This should be done within 10 working days of you receiving the outcome letter.

In the case where individuals are not employees of the Council, this must be done via the Council’s Complaints Procedure.


9. Key Issues to Consider

Victimisation

The Council will protect any individual who makes a disclosure in accordance with this policy and procedure from any form of victimisation and reprisal.  Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who engages in any form of bullying, harassment or victimisation against an individual who has raised a concern.

There may be some circumstances where management agree it is appropriate to transfer an employee to another service.  This would be done in consultation with the employee concerned.

 Anonymous Allegations

This policy encourages individuals who raise concerns not to remain anonymous by ensuring they will be protected from victimisation. However, where an individual wishes to remain anonymous, the Council will attempt to protect their identity. This may not always be possible as individuals who report concerns may be required to give evidence as a witness. The Council will use its discretion in maintaining the anonymity of the individual concerned. The following factors would need to be taken into account:

  • the seriousness of the issue(s) raised;
  • the likelihood of obtaining information from alternative sources which would confirm the allegation.

Untrue Allegations

The Council will protect individuals from false and malicious allegations.  Allegations will be investigated before determining what action, if any, should be taken.  Where it is established that an employee makes an allegation which is known to be false or malicious, they will be subject to disciplinary action under the Managing Discipline policy.

You May also be Interested in:

Relevant Documents 

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