Waveney District Council Whistleblowing

Brian Morton made this Freedom of Information request to Audit Commission

The request was partially successful.

Brian Morton

Dear Audit Commission,

I am making a Freedom of Information Request to you with reference to your Annual Governance Report 2008/09 for Waveney District Council dated September 2009.

In this report (page 10, paragraph 24) you make reference to a whitleblowing disclosure that led to an amendment of the Annual Governance Report.

Please respond to the following questions:

1. What was the nature and substance of this whistleblowing disclosure?

2. What was amended in the Annual Governance Statement as a result?

3. What action have you or any other body taken as a result of this disclosure (that you are aware of)?

4. Any and all other information you have pertaining to the whistleblowing disclosure including (but not limited to) communication between yourselves and Waveney District Council, any internal discussion on the subject and any third-party discussions on the subject.

Please confirm receipt of this message. If you are in a position to answer some questions earlier than others then please do so.

If you need any futher clairification please contact me via this email address and the WhatDoTheyKnow.com website.

Yours faithfully,

Brian Morton

Freedom of Information,

Dear Mr Morton

Thank you for your request received by the Commission on 8 April 2010.

The Audit Commission is committed to the principles of the Freedom of
Information Act and will wherever possible provide all the information
requested unless constrained by another statute or by an exemption
within the Freedom of Information Act. Please note that some information
you have requested may not be provided to you; this will only be
information that can be withheld by law. In most cases the reasons will
be explained to you along with your copy of any information that can be
released to you.

Your request is being considered and you will receive a response within
the statutory timescale of 20 working days, as defined by the Freedom of
Information Act. That date is 6 May 2010.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Kavanagh
Public Enquiries Officer
part of the Chief Executive's Office

* Audit Commission
Westward House
Lime Kiln Close
Stoke Gifford
Bristol
BS34 8SR

* 0844 798 7961
* 07967 565735
* [email address]

i For Freedom of Information (FOI) requests please email
[Audit Commission request email]

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Freedom of Information,

1 Attachment

<<S Kavanagh to Mr Morton.doc>>
Dear Mr Morton

Please find attached:

* The Audit Commission's response to RFI 1300
* The Audit Commission's Access to Information Complaint and Appeal
Procedure

Yours sincerely

Shaun Kavanagh
Public Enquiries Officer
part of the Chief Executive's Office

? Audit Commission
Westward House
Lime Kiln Close
Stoke Gifford
Bristol
BS34 8SR

( 0844 798 7961
E 07967 565735
? [1][email address]

i For Freedom of Information (FOI) requests please email
[2][Audit Commission request email]

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Brian Morton

Dear Audit Commission,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Audit Commission's handling of my FOI request 'Waveney District Council Whistleblowing'.

I have considered your response and I do believe that disclosure of this information is within the public interest and that doing so will not hinder your operation.

I certainly find it very hard to accept that all the information would be exempt from disclosure, certainly some information relating to the generalised nature and scope of the disclosure could be released without jeapordising privacy or anything else.

Though you say it may impact on peoples willingness to make such disclosures if they may become public I find this difficult to accept - the very nature of a whistleblowing disclosure is to make something known which until now has been covered up. In doing so an employee or other person is risking the wrath of their employer not the general public (in this case Waveney District Council).

I am led to believe that Waveney District Council have been made fully aware of the substance of the disclosure and are in fact currently performing an internal audit investigation.

So you are saying that it would hamper future whistleblowing if it was possible the information disclosed could be made public as opposed to currently where it is just disclosed to the authority employing the individual and "at fault".

In this case I do strongly believe that at least some information can be made public. I also think that you do in fact hold the information requested under part b in that you would have different versions of the reports prepared by the auditor and probably have had some discussion with the auditor regarding the changes.

What is not acceptable is that a local authority can cover up something, what that something is and the scope of it we do not know, and even though this fact is whistleblown to a supposedly independent body acting in the public interest they continue to collude with the authority to keep it secret - passing the substance only back to that authority and not into the public domain.

Again; given that the nature, substance and person behind the disclosure must be well known within the authority how can providing the general information without personally identifying information on potentially illegal or immorral working by a public body in any way risk further disclosures or not be in the public interest?

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wa...

Yours faithfully,

Brian Morton

Robert Mauler,

Dear Mr Morton, thank you for your request for an internal review.

I'll make sure it's dealt with and hope to be able to provide our full
response no later than 8 June.

If, in the meantime, you wish to contact us, you can do so by email to
[email address], or on 0844 798 3131.

Yours sincerely

Rob Mauler
Public Enquiries Manager
Audit Commission

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Robert Mauler,

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Morton, please find my response to your FOI review request and
discloseable information attached.

I would also like to make you aware that although this information
references Robert Davies as the auditor, this is no longer the case. The
appointed auditor who considered the disclosure is Neil Harris.

Yours sincerely

Rob Mauler

Robert Mauler
Public Enquiries Manager

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Brian Morton

Dear Robert Mauler,

Thank you for your reply. I have to say however that I am not satisfied entirely with your response.

Although you have provided detail in the most general form of the area of the disclosure made you have singularly failed to provide any specifics allowing me or the public at large to judge the size, scale or severity of the issue in hand.

Once again I repeat my earlier argument that in my opinion revealing this information - the specifics of the disclosure - in no way jepordises future disclosures. The main reasoning for this is that not only will it still not identify the individual but it is my understanding that Waveney Council (the employers of the person making the disclosure and the affected party) are fully aware not only of the contents of the disclosure but also of the identity of the person who made it.

Given the purpose of such a disclosure is to make public information witheld for some specific reason such as fraud I still fail to understand how making the details of the disclosure public can in any way affect this or any future disclosure.

I would be grateful if you would reconsider you decision and also provide me your reasoning as to why you feel release of this information may affect future disclosures. This will allow me to make a final decision before referring this matter to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Morton

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Your persistence is remarkable on this. Keep going. But will the Information Commissioner do anything quickly, or at all? The Freedom of Information (so-called) process, rather than opening up the workings of public bodies to public inspection, puts more obstacles in the way of the much-trumpeted 'transparency'. The whole thing is a complete tragedy and an ongoing insult to us all. With (useless) e-petitions being banned, are so-called 'Freedom of Information' laws and 'WhatDoTheyKnow' being lined up as the next victims of ideological cost-cutting measures? As corruption flourishes UK-wide, the whole thing appears a sop to any desire for public accountability.

This isn't ranty, but concise, I hope.

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Brian Morton left an annotation ()

Paul,

Sadly you are right it seems. It's far too easy for organisations to hide behind exemptions - it seems that is always their first course of action, especially if the information might be in any way embaressing.

As for the Information Commissioner the only time I have contacted them to date (over a request to the council involved that was just ignored for many months) they did phone and write to the council and got me a response.

The fact that reponse was a rejection is no slight on the ICO.

I doubt I will get anywhere with this but what started out as a little out-of-interest query of a note in a report online has turned into a bit of a quest for me as the level of stonewalling, delay and point-blank refusal leads me to think it may well be something tasty!

Thanks,

Brian.

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Robert Mauler,

Dear Mr Morton, thank you for your email.

In my review I fully considered the points you had made, and as a
result, disclosed further information that we had done previously.

I've given some more thought to your views, but have concluded that I
cannot release any more information for the reasons set out in my review
letter.

In your email you asked me to explain in greater detail why I felt that
the release of this information may affect future disclosures. The
Public Interest Disclosure Act is often a last resort for many people
who feel the need to tell someone about what is happening in their
workplace. Some people are happy for their identity to be known, for
example if they tell a local or national newspaper, but some people wish
to protect their identity. By releasing further information in a freedom
of information request, it could well put someone off making a
disclosure, if they felt there would be no privacy.

If those people who make disclosures to us were deterred from doing so,
we would be loosing a valuable source of information which can be passed
to the auditor for their consideration.
Releasing names would also be likely to breach the Data Protection Act.

This email now concludes our internal review and I hope explains my
reasoning better. Should you remain unhappy, you can contact the
Information Commissioner and make an appeal to him. Details of how to do
this were included in my full review letter.

Yours sincerely

Rob Mauler
Public Enquiries Managers

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Roll on 'Openleaks'. At least then, if it's successful, we'll have some chance of dragging these godforsaken jobsworths and gatekeepers kicking and screaming towards openness, transparency and accountability - ideals that they've been bleating on about, but obviously don't exist. If 'Openleaks' works, there'll be a 'panic button' on local newspapers' websites - for whistleblowers to press when they discover the sickening and all-too-common dirty deeds underway. There's also protected anonymity so they can't be threatened, harassed, bullied and victimised, which is currently the NORM where management cowards are concerned.

Read more on 'Openleaks' and the Knight News Challenge here:
http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/wiki...

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