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“Must do better” – government criticised for whistleblowing arrangements

Protect reaction to National Audit Office report ‘Investigation into whistleblowing in the civil service’ 

Following the publication of the National Audit Office’s report into whistleblowing in the civil service, Elizabeth Gardiner, CEO of Protect, the UK’s whistleblowing charity said: 

We welcome this National Audit Office report into whistleblowing in the civil service. The report notes that whistleblowers are key to good government and challenge is critical to holding organisations to account. Recent scandals, including Greensill and Partygate, showed that people inside government knew about wrongdoing but may have been afraid to come forward.  

However, it is concerning that that only half (52%) of civil servants believe it is safe to challenge the way things are done. This is lower than in the NHS (where the staff survey suggests over 61% felt safe to speak up about anything that concerns them). Most alarming is the lack of consistency in approach between government departments and gaps in collecting data. The Government cannot be confident that the arrangements for whistleblowing are effective across all departments nor that learning from whistleblowing is happening. The report notes problems including slow responses to concerns, a lack of serious actions, a failure to monitor incidences of victimisation, and failures to collect feedback from whistleblowers.  

When workers raise concerns, too many still face negative consequences – Protect’s research (cited in the NAO’s report) found that over half of those who contact our Advice Line working in the government sector said that they had experienced a negative outcome as a result of speaking up.  It is vital that the experiences of whistleblowers inform improvements in whistleblowing processes, and that the opportunity is taken to learn from all those speaking up. 

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