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The role of prescribed persons

The National Audit Office has today published a report on the role of prescribed persons in whistleblowing. Prescribed persons, as prescribed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, are independent bodies or individuals that can be approached by whistleblowers where an approach to their employers would not be appropriate. Prescribed persons, which usually have an authoritative relationship with the whistleblowers’ organizations, can be regulatory or legislative bodies, central government departments, arm’s length bodies or charities and include all Members of Parliament.

One of the principal conclusions of today’s NAO investigation is that more needs to be done to reduce the gap between the actions of prescribed persons and whistleblowers’ expectations, whilst recognizing that it is unlikely that the gap will ever be fully closed. Sir Robert Francis, in publishing his recent independent review, noted the challenges in encouraging whistleblowers to speak up. Whistleblowers will on occasion continue to feel let down by the arrangements in place and this does not encourage potential whistleblowers to raise concerns with confidence.

Today’s report calls on the wider government to do more to understand the experience of whistleblowers and to act where whistleblowers suffer detriment.

This is the NAO’s third report on whistleblowing. The first reviewed whistleblowing policies from 39 bodies, including its own, against good practice. The second focused on how organizations provide the best conditions to encourage people to come forward.

Notes for Editors

1. The NAO conducts investigations to establish the underlying facts in circumstances where concerns have been raised with us, or in response to intelligence that we have gathered through our wider work.

2. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.

3. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 820 employees. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.1 billion in 2013.

PN: 15/15