Falkirk Council: 18 investigations after calls made to whistleblowing hotline

A whistleblowers’ hotline for Falkirk Council employees has generated 18 new investigations over the past year.
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Members of Falkirk Council’s audit committee were told that no fraud has been found but the reports were helping the council to identify “weaknesses and gaps”.

Last year, the council’s external auditors noted the number of whistleblowing allegations being made against the council were becoming “a reputational risk” and recommended a review be carried out.

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Despite extensive investigations, no fraud was discovered but auditors agreed that going forward procurement procedures should be tightened up.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said it would be helpful to know if the whistleblowing investigations had led to any improvements or changes in practice. Pic: Lisa EvansCouncillor Cecil Meiklejohn said it would be helpful to know if the whistleblowing investigations had led to any improvements or changes in practice. Pic: Lisa Evans
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said it would be helpful to know if the whistleblowing investigations had led to any improvements or changes in practice. Pic: Lisa Evans

Councillors also agreed that whistleblowing investigations should be reported publicly at the audit committee to allow councillors to remain informed of any investigations.

The report to the audit committee today (Monday) showed that of the 18 new cases, 12 had been investigated and are now closed; three cases were initially investigated and subsequently referred to another service; and three cases are ongoing.

Five cases which were carried forward from the previous year have now been finalised and closed, leaving one case ongoing.

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At the audit committee, Council leader, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, queried the lack of information in the whistleblowing reports, saying it would be helpful to know if the investigations had led to any improvements or changes in practice. She also wanted to more about why some of the actions are outstanding and yet to be finalised.

Isabel Wright, Falkirk Council’s internal audit, risk, and corporate fraud manager, said the report had to be very careful to protect whistleblowers, while also balancing the protection of public money and the rights of employees.

But she was able to reassure councillors that recommendations have been made and that while no fraud or financial irregularity has been found “there have been weaknesses or gaps where we could improve.”

She said that some reports were outstanding but that the internal audit team had spoken to service managers about why this might be.

While various reasons could mean an investigation remains unresolved, the internal audit team aims to make sure all cases remain “on the radar until we have a result we can be satisfied with”.