All talk, no action: PAC criticises Government’s approach to whistleblowing

11th March 2016

From the NHS, to central government and the police, public trust in our institutions has been shattered following a number of recent whistleblowing scandals. According to the report published today by the Public Accounts Committee, Government must do more to encourage and support whistleblowers to come forward. The Committee condemned the Government for 'the lack of urgency shown in dealing with this important topic', bearing in mind the Committee first reported on this over 18 months ago, and found that the Government’s response to the earlier Report was 'too focused on policy and process, rather than on taking the lead to drive the much needed cultural change required'.

This echoes what we hear every day on our advice line: instead of really changing the status quo for whistleblowers, the Government merely pays lip service to the issue. Putting pen to paper is a good starting point, but creating a positive environment where whistleblowers feel confident to speak up requires much more than policies and procedures. Engaging with staff about their experience of using whistleblowing arrangements, taking action against those who victimise whistleblowers and measuring the impact of policies through regular review demonstrates a pro-active approach to whistleblowing that will make the difference- building the trust necessary to change culture within our public services. To this end, our Code of Practice provides useful indicators.

It’s right that the Government should also be monitoring those who provide public services and actively assessing relevant whistleblowing arrangements. A cross sector approach to whistleblowing will mean that regardless of whether an official is working for central government or for Serco, they will feel confident they are protected when raising concerns. It is about time we see some real action by Government to make sure that we celebrate and champion whistleblowers who protect the public interest.

By Cathy James OBE, Chief Executive

Also reported in the Guardian, 'Whistleblowers let down by government, say MPs'