By Councillor Whyte – Whistleblowing Culture (referred from the City of Edinburgh Council, 17 September 2020)
“1) Council notes with concern the recent media reports about the sudden death of a Council employee who had been suspended and was under investigation by the Council and Police over serious criminal allegations.
2) Council further notes that media reports allege that complaints about the employee’s behaviour date back over a number of years and that this behaviour was raised with the Council in the past. It is not clear to the public whether, or how, these matters were addressed.
3) Council notes that, since its introduction in 2014 the current whistleblowing process has improved matters with independent oversight from Safecall and the Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee being key contributors, but that there have been concerns raised historically in relation to pre-2014 whistleblowing and conduct inquiries into matters such as the statutory notices scandal, the matters examined by the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry, various investigations resulting in reports to Council detailing historic maladministration and the circumstances which led to the dismissal of the head teacher at Castlebrae High School. Many of these matters are still subject to Public Inquiry or Court proceedings.
4) Council expresses concern that current circumstances are potentially an indication of a negative culture which it was hoped was wholly historic in nature.
5) Council notes that an investigation has been commissioned by Council officers into the matters relating to the activities of the Council’s former staff member and related activities, working with the Police as appropriate, potentially involving independent input, and that this will report back to the Chief Executive in due course.
6) Council recognises the confidentiality and sensitivity of the investigation and requests the Chief Executive to report back to Council on the outcome and any recommendations in due course and in the meantime to keep the Group Leaders updated on progress.
7) Council agrees the prime importance of ensuring confidence in its approach to whistleblowing, corruption and criminal wrongdoing, and notes that addressing the culture contributing to any such failings is crucial.
8) Council therefore agrees to instruct an independent Inquiry into the culture that developed that allowed this situation to exist within, to determine whether it continues to persist today and to report on any recommendations for change. The Inquiry will be led by a senior person with appropriate experience such as a QC or former senior Police officer.
9) The Inquiry should proceed at the earliest appropriate opportunity, taking account of internal processes, legal proceedings and Police investigations and recognising that some of these may have to conclude before this wider cultural inquiry begins. The remit will be decided independently of the staffing structure of the Council and agreed by Group Leaders in consultation with the independent person identified to lead the Inquiry. It should specifically include the Council’s approach to the “avoidance of reputational damage” and whether this or any other aspects of culture within the Council has been a contributory factor in not fully identifying or addressing any potential wrongdoing.”