Protect supports Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) whistleblower Josie Stewart’s call for the introduction of an option for government whistleblowers to raise concerns with someone outside of the Civil Service.
Stewart, with another FCDO whistleblower, exposed the chaos at the FCDO during the fall of Kabul that left tens of thousands of Afghans unable to access the UK. They gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which, in a highly critical report, praised their bravery in coming forward. The same report was also damning about the FCDO’s whistleblowing culture, noting there were several officials in the department unhappy with the lack of options to raise concerns.
Stewart said in an interview with The Guardian on Friday that she wanted government whistleblowers to have an option for raising a concern with someone outside the Civil Service, who has the status of regulators under PIDA and the resources and authority to investigate impartially and respond effectively when concerns are raised.
The inability of staff to raise their concerns outside the Civil Service is a systematic problem that has been repeated in other scandals, including in Sue Gray’s report into Partygate which found that “some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.”
Nigel Boardman’s 2021 report into Greensill Capital lobbying further noted that the scandal ”might have been mitigated if there had been a robust and trusted whistleblowing process.”
Options for Civil Servants to go outside are limited. The Civil Service Commission deals with breaches of the Civil Service Code so the whistleblower may struggle to find a way to address wider wrongdoing, policy concerns or ministerial malpractice. If the department response is to ignore concerns, it is unsurprising that some civil servants are turning to MPs and the media to raise them.
‘The National Security Bill in its current form does not contain a public interest defence and government is resisting widespread calls for insertion of one. Home Office disagrees with assessments of necessity from media, free speech campaign groups, legal experts.’
‘I want government whistleblowers to have an option for raising a concern with someone outside the Civil Service – someone with the status of regulators under PIDA and with the resources and authority to investigate impartially and respond effectively when concerns are raised. There has to be a route for raising concerns about the top of the organisation other than up the chain within the organisation.’
“To repair the damage done to civil service whistleblowing, we want to see an independent statutory commissioner, with broad powers to investigate public interest disclosures, as recommended by the Law Commission. There should also be a public interest defence for whistleblowing on national security issues.’ – Andy Pepper-Parsons, Head of Policy for Protect