Whistleblowing is, apparently, on the increase. The results of a study published by the organisation Public Concern At Work (PCAW) has claimed in 2013 that it received 17 per cent more enquiries for help from those seeking to expose malpractice than the year before.
Nearly 40 per cent of all the cases which it dealt with came from the public sector, with education and health being the two industries most commonly complained about.
Of course, PCAW is not the only outlet for those wanting to expose malpractice. It doesn’t matter who these people turn to, though. They are all aware of the possible consequences of doing what they believe to be the right thing.
Chief among them is the possibility of harming their prospects of employment or advancement as a result of bringing the misconduct of colleagues to light.
So, it is with great interest that I read about the launch of a public consultation this week by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on proposals to afford more protection to officers and staff who report on wrongdoers among the ranks of police.
The initiative is designed to prevent forces taking disciplinary action against or even dismissing whistleblowers and could guarantee them anonymity and immunity from prosecution.
It is, though, only one part of a twin-pronged approach by the Home Office to tackle what one newspaper described as “rogue officers”. Theresa May also expounded at a conference of police and crime commissioners this week that misconduct hearings should in future be heard in public and have the power to strip those found guilty of misconduct of pensions and other benefits to which they would otherwise remain entitled.
Making misconduct something for which individuals become personally liable introduces the sense of penalty that is currently lacking. It should be hoped that such a move might at least reduce any temptation or complacency which plays a part in malpractice. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, certainly believes that miscreant bankers should not only forfeit their bonuses but have part of their basic salary clawed back.
The announcement by the Secretary of State is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. I wonder whether other elements of the public sector, in particular, will embrace and adopt her suggestions. If so, we may see the kind of transparency which might overcome the reticence which some whistleblowers might feel about coming forward and that is something to be truly applauded.