MP’s warn about “shocking” treatment to whistleblowers
MP’s have raised concerns about the treatment of employees in public services who alert seniors to wrongdoing, describing it as “shocking”.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has even stated that whistleblowers are often victims of bullying and harassment, with the report suggesting that they be offered legal and counselling services. It also recommended “swift sanctions” to be imposed on staff who plague whistleblowers, with government officials saying they are acting to ensure people feel free to speak out.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said whistleblowing was a “crucial source of intelligence to help government identify wrongdoing”, however it revealed a “startling disconnect” between policies encouraging whistleblowers in theory and what happened in practice. The report said it had “heard of too many cases of appalling treatment of whistleblowers by their colleagues”, with officials who tried to raise concerns often having to show “remarkable courage” in coming forward.
The report highlighted the Mid Staffordshire NHS scandal, where staff at Stafford Hospital had blown the whistle on “appalling care” between 2005 and 2008.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, told the BBC a “positive approach to whistle-blowing should exist wherever the taxpayer’s pound is spent. However, far too often whistleblowers have been shockingly treated, and departments have sometimes failed to protect some whistle-blowers from being victimised,” she said. Civil service staff should be given a “route map” of how to highlight issues, while the Cabinet Office should set out “how it will ensure whistleblowing policy and practices receive the strong leadership they need”.
A government spokeswoman said “All civil servants must be able to raise concerns so that poor services and inefficient operations can be identified and acted upon. That is why this government is ensuring people feel free to speak out. Awareness of how to raise a complaint has risen by 20% and two-thirds of civil servants feel that any complaint will be investigated properly. In addition, we are ensuring that all departments have a clear whistleblowing policy.”