The Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) has paid £130,000 in compensation to whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work for wasting its time.
The payout arises from the DTI’s dispute with the charity about a High Court ruling that the public were entitled to know about whistleblowing issues in claims being brought under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
The compensation follows a report from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, which castigated the DTI for serious maladministration and misleading behaviour. The ombudsman found that the DTI overturned the High Court ruling in secret, blocked Parliament from considering the new policy, misled consultees and failed to consider the public interest.
Along with the award, the DTI has apologised to Public Concern at Work for its misconduct.
Guy Dehn, the charity’s director, said: “The critical issue now is that lessons are learned so that Parliament, the courts and the public do not have to endure such abuse again. To this end, we will use the compensation to fund work on the accountability of civil servants and on our open justice campaign.”
The charity aims to reverse the rule that now means the public has no right to any information about, or even to know of the existence of, a whistleblowing claim unless it ends in a formal tribunal decision.
As more than two in three whistleblowing claims are settled and lead to no decision, Public Concern at Work points out that this rule subverts the Act as it encourages employers and employees to trade the public interest for private gain.
The damages were calculated to compensate the charity for the time its staff wasted as a result of the DTI’s maladministration and for denying it the opportunity to influence the legislative process. Exceptionally, the Treasury agreed that the DTI should include an additional £15,000 as compensation for ‘botheration’ or distress.