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Whistleblowing service receives 23 complaints

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TWENTY-THREE complaints have been made by government staff via an independent whistleblowing service during 2019, new figures show.

Senator Kristina Moore Picture: ROB CURRIE. (26509859)

In the year to date there have been 17 bullying and harassment and six whistleblowing complaints made to the Speak-up Line, which is run by hotline provider Expolink.

The service, which can be contacted by phone, online or via an app on smartphones, is staffed by independent operatives who are trained to offer help and guidance about progressing concerns.

The government, which provided the figures in response to a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper, refused to release any further details about the complaints or their outcomes for confidentiality reasons.

In its response it said: ‘It is not possible to provide any further breakdown, including whether the complaints were given anonymously, due to the need to maintain confidentiality, and the potential for identification of individuals.’

Complaints can be categorised into a number of areas, although again the government said it could not provide a breakdown of those made this year in order to protect the identity of those involved.

The reasons for complaints can range from ageism, fraud, political activity and assault to grievance with colleagues, racism, bribery, gross misconduct, bullying-victimisation and more.

The figures follow an exchange in the States recently during which Senator Kristina Moore asked States Employment Board deputy chairman Richard Buchanan whether a company which reviewed bullying and harassment complaints in the public sector would be invited back to conduct a follow-up report.

Last year the HR Lounge found that there had been ‘significant’ levels of complaints in the public sector and reported that employees described feeling ‘leper like’ once a complaint had been lodged.

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It also found there was a feeling of discouragement about making an allegation in the first place.

A total of 29 recommendations were made to improve the system and the government put new systems in place, including the confidential helpline.

Senator Moore told the Assembly recently that information she had received suggested that the ‘situation and trust in the new system is no better than it was previously’.

Mr Buchanan said he was ‘disappointed’ to hear that, as feedback he had received suggested differently.

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He also said that the SEB would be ‘open’ to inviting the HR Lounge back if an internal progress report being carried out showed that it was needed.

Responding to the figures, Senator Moore said: ‘I would like to see HR Lounge return. It is imperative that they do, to offer an independent view of the organisation and comparison against the state of affairs last year.

‘Seventeen and six are small numbers – less than 0.3% of the workforce. I am not an expert, but it does appear to be a disproportionately small number for the size of the organisation. In a large organisation it is healthy to see that people feel able to make complaints. What we need to ensure is that those complaints are acted upon. It would be interesting to see what action has been taken in the past year.’

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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