Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP 2:15 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what lessons have been learned from the experience of John Travers, who used whistleblowing procedures to make allegations about a possible financial irregularity in the City of Edinburgh Council accounts and who was subsequently the subject of disciplinary procedures. (S2O-12304)

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Statutory guidance made under the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 requires local authorities to have in place effective policies on fraud prevention and investigation and whistleblowing. It is for local authorities to establish those procedures and ensure that they are appropriate.

On the particular matter that Colin Fox raised, I understand that the City of Edinburgh Council is today considering an assessment of management, financial and human resources issues—including public interest disclosure—arising from the recent case involving the Edinburgh lifelong learning partnership, to which Mr Travers's allegations related.

Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP

I am sure that the minister will agree that the case raises some serious questions about the effectiveness of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, in particular the protection of those who seek to act as good citizens and bring problems to a council's attention.

Mr Travers, a loyal and long-serving public servant, approached the city council about irregularities that he saw in the running of the Edinburgh lifelong learning partnership. To his horror, rather than the council investigating why £400,000 of public money, including £180,000 belonging to the Executive, could not be properly accounted for, he found himself the subject of investigation and suspended from work. Despite winning an employment tribunal, he has not had his original job back, and he has been subject to repeated intimidation, which he believes his managers have done nothing to halt.

Does the minister accept that the experience of Mr Travers is hardly likely to encourage other loyal employees to come forward when they see apparent wrongdoing? As the minister says, the council is meeting today to consider the matter. Will he ensure that Mr Travers and his family are fully compensated for the substantial losses that they incurred?

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 is United Kingdom legislation that provides protection for workers who blow the whistle on, or raise a genuine concern about, malpractice. The 1998 act protects genuine whistleblowers from being victimised as a result of their actions, through, for example, reassignment of duties, failure to award salary increases and dismissal.

When the whistleblower is victimised in breach of the 1998 act, he or she may bring a claim to an employment tribunal for compensation. Awards are uncapped and based on the losses suffered. I understand that in 2006 Mr Travers won £5,000 compensation after an employment tribunal ruled that the council had failed in its duty to protect him.