Whistleblowing

Audit Scotland, the Accounts Commission, the Auditor General and the firms we appoint are all ‘prescribed persons’ under The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014. This means that whistleblowers (employees) can raise issues of concern (disclosures) with us about fraud, corruption or wrongdoing within the public bodies we audit.

Audit Scotland cannot give legal advice about raising a whistleblowing disclosure. However, Public Concern at Work is a charitable organisation which can provide independent and confidential advice to workers who are unsure whether or how to raise a public interest concern. Their advice line is managed by qualified lawyers with a wealth of experience in whistleblowing law and practice.

How to raise a whistleblowing disclosure with us

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 Download and fill in our whistleblowing disclosure form (DOC 314Kb)

Alternatively, you can ask for a form by emailing us at correspondence@audit-scotland.gov.uk, or by writing to us at:

The correspondence team, Audit Scotland, 4th Floor, 102 West Port, Edinburgh, EH3 9DN

If you have any form of impairment or disability which may require reasonable adjustments let us know what those adjustments are. A reasonable adjustment may mean, for example, providing information in large font or in audio form to help someone with a visual impairment.

If you need help to complete the form, you can call us on 0131 625 1500. One of our employees will take the details for you or arrange for a member of our correspondence team to call you back.

Our confidentiality policy for dealing with whistleblowing disclosures

Confidentiality is important and we will always try to maintain your anonymity if at all possible, however we do share the information you give us with the local auditors. The local auditor will not disclose your personal information or details to the public body, unless you have given your permission. However you should be aware that, by raising certain whistleblowing disclosures with public bodies, the public body may be able to deduce your identity. If we need to disclose personal information to the public body concerned so we can review and respond to your whistleblowing disclosure, we will write to ask you for your written permission in advance.

We have an obligation under the Public Information Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) to protect both the identity of the whistleblower and the public body concerned. We sometimes get media enquiries about correspondence we may have received. To ensure we cause no detriment to either party, our policy is to neither confirm nor deny receipt of any whistleblowing disclosure correspondence while a case is ongoing.

Whilst maintaining confidentiality, we are required to report annually on the whistleblowing issues raised with us throughout the year, in order to meet our statutory requirements (please read ‘What happens after you raise your whistleblowing disclosure with us?’ section below for more information).

PIDA and organisations' whistleblowing policies

PIDA provides strong protection for workers who 'blow the whistle' on, or raise a genuine concern about malpractice, for example improper professional behaviour or wrongdoing. The legislation was made to help prevent malpractice or things going wrong in the first place by encouraging an atmosphere of openness and transparency.

All organisations should have a well-publicised policy which explains how you can safely raise a genuine concern inside and outside your organisation.

We recommend that you follow your organisation's policy before contacting us, unless you have concerns that by doing so, you believe you will be victimised, or the matter will be covered up. If you are concerned about raising a whistleblowing disclosure with your organisation or through ourselves, you can contact Public Concern at Work for free advice. Please also read our useful guidance information under the More Information section on this page.

When would we act on a whistleblowing disclosure

You are protected by the Act if you are an employee, no matter when you make the whistleblowing disclosure. This includes:

  • workers, contractors, trainees, agency staff, homeworkers, police officers, everyone in the NHS
  • workers within the public, private and voluntary sectors

Whistleblowing disclosures must be about:

  • concerns about actual or perceived breaches of civil, criminal, regulatory or administrative law
  • miscarriages of justice
  • threats to an individual's health and safety
  • dangers to health, safety and the environment and
  • the cover up of any such malpractice

In making our assessment on whether we will act on a whistleblowing disclosure, we will apply our technical knowledge and professional judgement.

When would we not act on a whistleblowing disclosure

You are not protected by the Act if you are:

  • Self-employed, a volunteer, or a member of the intelligence services or armed forces.

We would not act on whistleblowing disclosures which relate to:

  • grievances which are personal rather than of concern to the organisation or of public concern, for example you have a dispute with your employer
  • anything which breaks the law
  • whistleblowing disclosures made in bad faith, for example from an improper motive

You can find further information under the More Information section of this page.

What happens after you raise your whistleblowing disclosure with us?

PIDA does not place any additional power or duty on ‘prescribed persons’, and we do not have a legal obligation to act on a whistleblowing disclosure. However, we deal with whistleblowing disclosures received under the same policy and procedure we use for other issues of concern we receive.

Where we act on possible malpractice and wrongdoing, we may not be able to tell you the precise outcome of any action we took if this would create a potential conflict on a duty of confidence owed by us to someone else. Our policy is to refer whistleblowing disclosures to the local auditors (please read our section above on confidentiality).

You will receive an acknowledgement within five working days to confirm that we have received your whistleblowing disclosure.

We also aim to provide a final response within 30 working days.

If we are able to act in response to a whistleblowing disclosure you raise
Our response will set out in general terms what action we plan to take. We may need to complete a focussed piece of work for some whistleblowing disclosures that people raise with us. However, in some cases due to the sensitivity of the whistleblowing disclosure and restrictions placed on us, for example where we do not have permission to share information, some cases may take longer to conclude. In cases like these, where the work will take us longer than 30 working days, we will write to tell you what we plan to do and provide updates of our progress on our website within the parameters of our confidentiality agreement with you. How and what we report to the body will be determined by our findings and our confidentiality agreement with the whistleblower.

If we are not the right people to help you
We will aim to let you know quickly and, if possible, redirect you to another body or regulator.

We have a statutory requirement to annually report:

  • the number of whistleblowing disclosures we received
  • the action taken, for example which of the five outcomes was taken
  • high level information on numbers for each public sector for example health
  • general information on the types of recommendations we made to the bodies