Bribery, drug-tak­ing, cor­rup­tion listed by coun­cil whistle­blow­ers Sur­rey County Coun­cil year-on-year in­ves­ti­ga­tions through Ex­polink on­line re­port­ing sys­tem rise from eight in 2014-15 to 27 over past 12 months

Staines Informer - - NEWS - Eleanor Davis

WHISTLEBLOWING and al­le­ga­tions of fraud at Sur­rey County Coun­cil both dou­bled last year.

In one in­ci­dent a coun­cil em­ployee re­signed after be­ing found to have taken bribes.

Coun­cil pa­pers re­veal a to­tal of 45 re­ports were made by whistle­blow­ers to the author­ity’s Ex­polink on­line re­port­ing sys­tem in 2015/16, lead­ing to 27 in­ves­ti­ga­tions when con­sid­ered along­side re­ports from di­rect sources.

Al­le­ga­tions in­cluded re­ports of sub­stance abuse, cor­rup­tion and fraud­u­lent prac­tice in the chil­dren, school and fam­i­lies ser­vice, an em­ployee be­ing in­tim­i­dated by a mem­ber of the pub­lic in the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s of­fice and mis­use of money in adult so­cial care.

The num­bers are up from eight in­ves­ti­ga­tions as a re­sult of re­ports through Ex­polink in 2014/15.

In the pa­pers, put be­fore the au­dit com­mit­tee last month, the coun­cil stated dur­ing the au­tumn of 2015/16 there were two new op­tions for whistle­blow­ers to sub­mit a re­port anony­mously to Ex­polink.

“Through­out the lat­ter part of the fi­nan­cial year we have ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease in the us­age of this ser­vice,” the re­port read.

“This may re­flect the raised pro­file of the whistleblowing pol­icy on the home page of snet [staff in­tranet], or per­haps that peo­ple felt more con­fi­dent to re­port us­ing one of these new op­tions.”

At the same meet­ing, on May 26, the com­mit­tee saw a full-year sum­mary of in­ter­nal au­dit ir­reg­u­lar­ity in­ves­ti­ga­tions and the coun­cil’s counter fraud mea­sures, cov­er­ing April 2015 to March 2016.

By March 31, the to­tal num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tions stood at 39, up from the 22 cases in 2014/15. Of the 39, 12 were proven, 20 not proven and seven on-go­ing as of May 26. Those not proven were based on spe­cific al­le­ga­tions, and other con­clu­sions may have been reached.

The ma­jor­ity of re­fer­rals for in­ves­ti­ga­tion came through man­age­ment, hu­man re­sources, or whistleblowing and pri­mar­ily con­cerned the chil­dren, school and fam­i­lies ser­vice (41%), fol­lowed by adult so­cial care (21%). False rep­re­sen­ta­tion was the al­le­ga­tion of 20% of all in­ves­ti­ga­tions, fol­lowed by abuse of power at 18%.

Other al­le­ga­tions were the mis­use of pub­lic funds (13%) and mis­con­duct (13%).

Those proven in­cluded mis­con­duct by a coun­cil of­fi­cial and re­ceipt of bribes and other pay­ments from a sup­plier – after which the of­fi­cial re­signed and the case was re­ferred to po­lice.

An­other in­volved the ‘over­pay­ment’ of £6,600 to a head­teacher, which was re­cov­ered with ad­vice given to ‘strengthen con­trols’.

In an­other case, a coun­cil em­ployee was found to have mis­used a coun­cil fuel card to fill up their own ve­hi­cle.

Fol­low­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion the of­fi­cer re­signed, agreed to re­pay the full amount of £836 and the case was re­ferred to po­lice.

A mem­ber of the pub­lic was found to have fraud­u­lently dis­played a blue badge be­long­ing to a de­ceased rel­a­tive and a coun­cil of­fi­cer was found out after mis­rep­re­sent­ing them­selves to an­other coun­cil to ‘ob­tain in­for­ma­tion for their own needs’.

On in­ves­ti­ga­tions of fraud and ir­reg­u­lar­ity, the coun­cil spent £20,126 – in­creas­ing to £54,564 when in­clud­ing av­er­age em­ployer pension con­tri­bu­tions and re­cov­ery of over­head charges.

The coun­cil at­trib­uted the in­crease to a rise in re­fer­rals from whistle­blow­ers and other pub­lic sec­tor bod­ies.

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