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COPFS

Breaches of Civil Service Code (R010117)

Freedom of Information: Breaches of Civil Service Code (R010117)

Thank you for your email of 9 April 2015 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). You have requested:

Whistleblowing

(1) Please provide details of the number of individuals who have raised concerns regarding alleged breaches of the Civil Service Code in your organisation between the following dates: 01/01/2010 to 09/01/2010 and 01/01/2014 to 31/12/2014.

(2) in particular:
i.     Please provide details of whether each individual raised the concern on anonymous, confidential, or self-identified basis.
ii.    Please indicate whether the concern was raised to a line manager or nominated officer (an individual tasked to receive whistleblowing concerns as identified in the Civil Service Code).
iii.   Please provide a brief summary of the types of concerns raised.
iv.  Please indicate whether or not the matter complained of was subsequently referred to the Civil Service Commission or a regulatory or enforcement organisation.
v.    Please identify (if appropriate) whether any subsequent action was taken.


Disclosure of Official Information without Authority.

(3)If instances of disclosures of official information without authorisation (commonly referred to as ‘leaking’ i.e. to a journalist or other any other individual outside of the organisation who should have access to the information in question) are recorded by your organisation, please disclose the number of instances of unauthorised disclosure between the dates: 01/01/2010 to 31/12/2014.

(4)Please disclose the number of inquiries conducted into disclosures of official information without authority between the dates: 01/01/2010 to 31/12/2014.

(5)Please disclose any policy guidance/ guidelines for the handling of instances of unauthorised disclosures

(6)If possible, please identify the number of employees in your organisation who have been subject to disciplinary action or dismissal for the disclosure of official information without authority.

Confidentiality agreements

(7)Please identify whether or not individuals working for your organisation are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. If so, please disclose a blank copy of this agreement.

Official Secrets Acts

(8)Please identify whether or not individuals working for your organisation are required to sign the Official Secrets Act(s). If, so please disclose a blank copy of this agreement.

Authorisation to disclose official information.

(9)If your organisation has policy guidance/ procedures for individuals (in particular employees or former employees of your organisation) to seek authorisation to disclose official documents (as indicated by s.7 Official Secrets Act 1989) please disclose this.

I have answered each of your numbered questions below.

1)   There have been no formal concerns raised regarding alleged breaches of the Civil Service Code during the dates specified.
2)   As already outlined, no such concerns have been raised.
3)   For the sake of clarity, I have interpreted points 3 and 4 of your request as relating to the deliberate unauthorised disclosure of information by COPFS staff rather than accidental disclosure of information. There has been one recorded instance of unauthorised disclosure of information by a member of COPFS staff during the dates specified.

4)   Eight internal inquiries have been carried out during the dates specified which, to some extent, included inquiries into whether or not any confidential information had been disclosed. 

5)   Issues relating to the unauthorised disclosure of information are dealt with in terms of the COPFS Disciplinary Policy which is published on our website. I have attached a link below for your convenience. http://www.copfs.gov.uk/publications/human-resources

6)   Since 1 January 2010, one member of COPFS staff has been subject to disciplinary action for the disclosure of official information without authority.
7)   COPFS staff do not sign a separate confidentiality agreement. However, the following statement is contained within the terms and conditions of employment, which will be signed by all staff. 

“USE OF OFFICIAL INFORMATION

All civil servants owe duties of confidentiality and loyal service to the Crown.  These require civil servants to exercise care in the use of information which they acquire in the course of their official duties and to protect information which is held in confidence.  The rules governing the use of official information and related activities are set out in the Staff Handbook.  Any breach of these rules may result in disciplinary action and in certain circumstances criminal or civil proceedings. 

All the servants are subject to the Official Secrets Act 1989.  The provision of the Act as they affect civil servants are summarised in Appendix 1 attached.  You should read it carefully.”

8)   As outlined above, the Official Secrets Act forms part of an employee’s terms and conditions of employment.
9)   Extracts from internal COPFS staff guidance relating to the authorised disclosure of official information has been provided at Annex A.

Annex A

  • “Crown servants may disclose official information only in accordance with their official duty, Government contractors may do so only in accordance with an official authorisation or for the purposes of their functions as government contractors and without contravening an official restriction. In any other circumstances a disclosure is made without lawful authority
  • “Unless specifically authorised to do so, members of staff should not disclose or use any information other than in the course of their official duties”
  • “Employees must clear in advance material for publication, broadcasts or other public discussion which draws on official information or experience”
  • “In the UK individual employees already have a legal duty to report to external authorities suspicions of terrorism or money laundering associated with the illicit drug trade. Whistleblowing goes beyond this duty as it invites employees to make `qualifying disclosures’ which are deemed to be `disclosures of information which in the reasonable belief of the employee making the disclosure tends to show one or more of the following:
        1. A criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed 
        2. A person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject 
        3. A miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur
        4. The health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered
        5. The environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged
        6. That information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed. 

 


This Whistleblowing Policy, therefore, is intended to encourage and enable staff to raise serious concerns in the Department rather than overlooking a problem or blowing the whistle to the media or other external bodies. The Policy is given additional force by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which came into force on 2 July 1999 to protect employees in both private and public sectors who disclose perceived wrongdoing. Under this Act confidentiality clauses in contracts of employment are considered null and void if related to `qualifying disclosures’ in the areas given in the bullet points above. The Human Rights Act also supports whistleblowing through a clause on freedom of expression”