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
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.