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Rother District Council Agenda Item:

 


Report to - Standards Committee
Date - 10 February 2004
Report of the - District Secretary and Monitoring Officer
Subject - Anti-Fraud and Corruption: "Whistleblowing" Policy


The Council, at its meeting held on 15 December 2003, received a report on the Anti-Fraud and Corruption: "Whistleblowing" Policy from the Cabinet meeting held on  3 November 2003.  The minute and recommendation relating to this item are reproduced below.


Recommendation:  It be RESOLVED that the Standards Committee concur with Rother District Council's Anti-Fraud and Corruption; "Whistleblowing" Policy as set out in Appendix A.


CB107. ANTI-FRAUD AND CORRUPTION: "WHISTLE-BLOWING" POLICY

The Council had a culture of honesty and integrity and had always taken a strong stance against fraud and corruption.  Following a recent review of the existing Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy a revised Anti-Fraud and Corruption: Whistle Blowing Policy had been written.  The Policy was designed to give confidence to and provide the necessary framework for both employees and Members to raise serious concerns and to be assured that any concerns raised would be properly investigated.  The main aims of the policy were to

Encourage employees to feel confident in raising serious concerns;
Provide avenues for employees to raise those concerns, on an anonymous basis if necessary, and to have confidence that those concerns will be properly dealt with; and
Reassure them that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if they have reasonable belief that they have made the disclosure in good faith.
 
In order to strengthen the system, process and culture, and to allow the whistle blowing policy to be fully effective, an anonymous Hotline and a website reporting facility would be introduced, the funding for which would be met from existing budgets.  In order to combat any false allegations on malicious grounds, it was noted that all allegations of fraud or corruption were investigated thoroughly by a Senior Officer before being acted upon and evidence to support any such claims would be fully researched.  The Officers were thanked for a clear and legible policy document.

RECOMMENDED: That subject to the concurrence of the Standards Committee, Rother District Council's Anti-Fraud and Corruption: "Whistle-Blowing" Policy be approved and adopted and form part of the Constitution of the Council.


APPENDIX 1


Rother District Council

Anti-Fraud and Corruption:
"Whistle-Blowing" Policy


1. Introduction

Rother District Council is committed to the highest standards of good corporate governance and to full accountability for all of its services. It is also committed to the prevention, deterrence, detection and investigation of all forms of fraud, theft or corruption. As part of these commitments, this existing Anti-Fraud and Corruption: "Whistle-Blowing" Policy has been revised.

This Policy applies equally to all Council employees and Members and forms part of the Constitution of the Council.

This "Whistle-Blowing" Policy is intended to supplement, rather than replace, the existing procedures whereby Council employees, its Members and members of the public may already raise complaints or matters of genuine concern with the Council.

2. Culture

Rother District Council is determined that the culture and tone of the organisation shall be one of honesty and strong opposition to fraud, corruption or any form of malpractice. There is an expectation and requirement that all individuals and organisations associated in whatever way with the Council will act with integrity and that employees, at all levels, will lead by example in these matters.

The Council's employees are an important element in its stance against fraud, corruption or any form of malpractice and are positively encouraged to raise any concerns that they may have on these issues where they are associated with the Council's activity. They can do this in the knowledge that such concerns will be treated in confidence, properly investigated and dealt with fairly. 

3. What is "Whistle-Blowing"?

"Whistle-Blowing" has been defined, as the disclosure by an employee of confidential information, which relates to some danger, fraud or other illegal or unethical conduct connected with the workplace, be it of the employer or of his fellow employees.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 was introduced to protect employees who expose serious wrongdoing in the workplace. It encourages people to raise concerns about malpractice in the workplace. It applies where a malpractice is disclosed involving: -

A crime or breach of regulatory, administrative or common law;
A miscarriage of justice;
Danger to health and safety;
Damage to the environment;
Unauthorised use of public funds;
Possible fraud and corruption.

4. Aims and Scope of this policy

This policy aims to:

Encourage employees to feel confident in raising serious concerns
Provide avenues for employees to raise those concerns, on an anonymous basis if necessary, and to have confidence that those concerns will be properly dealt with
Reassure them that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if they have reasonable belief that they have made the disclosure in good faith.

5. The Council's Commitment to you

This Policy is intended as a clear and unequivocal statement that, whenever and wherever any malpractice or wrongdoing by Rother District Council, its Members, any of its employees, or by any of its contractors or suppliers, is identified by or reported to the Council, it will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Any faults found will be rectified and any means of preventing such malpractice or wrongdoing in the future will be instituted.

"You are protected from victimisation by the Act, provided that you reasonably believe the information and are acting in good faith. A disclosure is protected if you have an honest and reasonable suspicion that a malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. If you make an allegation in good faith, but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against you."

"The Council will do its utmost to protect the anonymity of the disclosure source and prevent reprisals in respect of all matters of concern raised by employees and Members."

6. Prevention Policies

The Council recognises that a key preventative measure in the fight against fraud and corruption is to take effective steps at recruitment stage to establish, as far as possible, the previous record of potential employees, in terms of their propriety and integrity. In this regard, temporary and contract employees will be treated in the same manner as permanent employees.

Employees are expected to follow any Code of Conduct related to their personal and professional institute or association and also abide by the Council's Staff Code of Conduct, which sets out the Council's requirements regarding personal conduct. The Council has in place Disciplinary Procedures for all employees, which it will not hesitate to use if any impropriety is suspected.

Members are expected to follow the several Codes and Protocols of Conduct as set out in Part 5 of the Council Constitution. The Council has a Standards Committee in place, which is charged with promoting and maintaining the high standards of conduct by Councillors and also assisting them to observe the Members Code of Conduct.

7. Financial Procedure Rules

The prevention of fraud and corruption is covered in several areas of the Council's Financial Procedure Rules (FPRs). The Director of Resources is responsible under FPR - M.1 for developing and maintaining an anti-fraud and corruption policy and under FPR - L6. for ensuring that effective procedures are in place to investigate promptly any fraud or irregularity.

Under FPR - L.12, the Chief Executive, each Director or Head of Service or contractor who is subject to the Procedure Rules, is required to notify the Director of Resources or Head of Audit Services immediately of any circumstances which suggest the possibility of any irregularity affecting cash, stores or other property of the Council, or any other suspected irregularity in the exercise of the functions of the Authority.

8. How to raise a concern

As an employee, you can raise your concern or suspicion in the first instance with your Line Manager or your Head of Service. If you prefer, you can raise it directly with any of the following officers: -

Chief Executive (Derek Stevens - Tel. 01424-787800) 
Director of Resources (Pav Ramewal  - Tel. 01424-787700) 
Director of Services (Tony Leonard - Tel. 01424-787510) 
Head of Audit Services (Dave Dyer - Tel. 01424-787707)
Monitoring Officer (Trevor Elliott - Tel. 01424-787805)

Members can raise their concerns or suspicions directly with any of the officers above.

Concerns can be raised verbally or in writing. If written, then the envelope needs to be addressed to one of the officers above and marked 'PERSONAL, PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL'. If the concern is serious nature, the envelope should be hand delivered to the person to whom the matter is being reported.

9. Facilities for reporting concerns anonymously

Whilst employees and Members are encouraged to put their names to allegations, concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful. However, in order to ensure that maximum facilities are available to both employees and Members to freely report anonymously on areas of concern, the following has been set up.

"24 hour - Fraud Hotline - Tel. (01424) 787799"  -This is for all areas of concern about possible fraud or corruption (excluding housing benefits, which has its own dedicated line) and will be under the control of the Head of Audit Services.

Anonymous "Whistle-Blowing" facility on the Council's website -This is for all areas of concern about possible fraud or corruption (excluding housing benefits, which has its own dedicated facility) and will be under the control of the Head of Audit Services.

These facilities are to be installed shortly and will be published freely with details made available to all employees and Members as well as being available to the public.

10. Protection for Employees

Rother District Council is proud of its reputation as a Council with the highest standards of probity and will ensure that any complaints received are properly investigated. However, the Council will view very seriously any false or malicious allegations, which it receives, and will regard the making of such allegations by an employee of the Council as a serious disciplinary issue. Officers suffering from such allegations will be fully supported by the Council.


11. Other means of reporting

If employees or Members still have reason to feel unable to report their concern within the Authority, then they can report their concern to a prescribed person such as: -

Public Concern at Work is an independent charity, which provides free advice for employees who wish to express concerns about fraud or other serious malpractice. www.pcaw.co.uk Tel:  020 7404 6609

Sussex Police Tel:  0845 60 70 999

Audit Commission, Anti Fraud and Corruption Manager - PIDA, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP Tel:  020 7630 1019

 

*THAT THE PUBLIC MAY KNOW*