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Lancashire County Council whistleblowing cases soar
THE number of whistleblowers’ complaints about possible malpractice and misconduct at Lancashire County Council has tripled, the authority’s audit committee was told.
Between May 2012 and May 2013, there were 21 cases where staff used the confidential procedures to raise concerns – up from just seven in the previous 12 months.
Complaints included inappropriate sharing of council data, management of contracts, lack of support for employees, workplace rows, misuse of the county e-mail system, excessive overtime claims, bullying and turning up to work under the influence of alcohol.
In 10 cases, the complaints were found to be ‘unsubstantiated’ and one was withdrawn by the complainant before inquiries began. In a case of misuse of school equipment for private work, the inquiry decided there was ‘insufficient evidence to warrant any further investigation’ and in another complaint about an employee taking sick leave when not sick, it led to the issue being raised informally with the staff member.
A complaint over inept management and lack of support for staff led to extra help being put in place for the manager.
Another case involving alleged misuse of funds by a headteacher has led to a further investigation, as has a tip-off over excessive overtime and misuse of highways vehicles.
Four complaints led to decisive action. The contract of an agency worker who was related to the employee who awarded the contract was cancelled with immediate effect.
The casual re-employment of a former full-time employee who had taken voluntary redundancy was ended.
The case of ‘two employees having a heated argument at work’ led to internal disciplinary action and advice was provided to improve controls at a school where there was inappropriate expenditure with firms linked to senior staff.
An investigation is continuing into potential misuse of the county council e-mail system by two work colleagues.
Audit manager Ian Rushworth told councillors: “Since our last report in May 2012, we have received 21 complaints which fall under the whistleblowing policy. Historically, there have been fluctuations from year to year. The 21 complaints represent a significant increase on the seven cases logged the previous year.”
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