Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House
In the plenary session on 4 June 2013 I agreed to issue a further written statement giving details of the remit and activities of the Welsh Government’s Whistleblowing Panel.
Although Employment Policy and Legislation is not devolved, the Welsh Government seeks to ensure high standards in all aspects of public and corporate life in Wales. It is important that any person who wishes to report wrongdoing in their organisation should feel assured and confident that their disclosure will be taken seriously without fear of detriment or victimisation.
The Welsh Government is committed to being an exemplar of the whistleblowing process and sharing best practice. The Welsh Government has a Code of Practice on Whistleblowing policy and under this policy there are nominated officers who can be approached on a confidential basis with concerns which staff which to raise about suspected wrongdoing. The whistleblowing arrangements and the contact details for nominated officers are drawn to the attention of staff on a regular basis.
To oversee the process the Whistleblowing Panel of the Welsh Government meets on a regular basis, within 10 working days of a disclosure being made, or monthly if no new cases are reported. The panel consists of members with appropriate expertise and training. The current membership of the panel is:
- Chair - Director of Governance
- Member – Director of People
- Member – Head of Corporate Governance and Assurance
- Member – Head of Counter Fraud
- Member – Head of Complaints
- Member – Wales Audit Office Secondee
- Secretary – Governance Manager
As detailed in my previous statement, the remit of the panel was widened in June 2012 so that it would also consider and oversee the process of dealing with concerns raised with the Welsh Government about individual cases in relation to the application of Welsh Government funds by its partners and grant recipients. In these cases, the panel considers whether there is a prima facie case for further investigation and if so it will usually commission either Internal Audit Services or the sponsor division of the Welsh Government to carry out further work and report back to the panel. The panel works closely with the Wales Audit Office who, on occasions, will refer particular issues raised with the Auditor General for Wales to the panel to investigate.
The need to protect the anonymity of whistleblowers and the sensitive nature of some of the issues and discussion mean that the minutes and deliberations of the Whistleblowing Panel are not published either internally or externally to the Welsh Government. The Chair of the panel reports to the Permanent Secretary about the activities of the panel.
In addition to these arrangements, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998) the Auditor General for Wales is described as ‘a prescribed person’, which means that an employee can report to him any concerns about 'the proper conduct of public business, value for money, fraud and corruption in relation to the provision of public services'. This includes disclosures in relation to NHS Wales; a local authority; a police or fire authority; or the Welsh Government or a related body. Further information can be found on the Wales Audit Office website.
It is the responsibility of each organisation in Wales to establish a robust, user friendly, whistleblowing policy and, again, I would encourage them all to take this responsibility seriously. The Welsh Government is committed to providing leadership on the issue of whistleblowing in Wales, and will be happy to work with organisations to help them establish or improve their procedures in order to achieve a high standard of public service delivery.