Background to the report

Whistleblowing is a vital organisational protection. It provides a way for organisations to hear concerns about serious wrongdoing that may not otherwise be discovered. The concerns reported can be wide-ranging for example, financial mismanagement, environmental damage, and covering up wrongdoing.

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Government’s own guidance states that whistleblowing is an important part of good government, requiring consistent policies across the civil service and a culture that supports whistleblowing. However, the process of raising, investigating and concluding a whistleblowing case is often challenging both for the individual and the organisation.

Scope of the report

In this report we examine whistleblowing in the civil service. This includes government departments, executive agencies and other government organisations that primarily employ civil servants.

Our report:

  • describes roles and responsibilities for whistleblowing in the civil service
  • summarises changes made to the whistleblowing framework and central  government oversight actions since we and the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) reported in 2014 to 2016
  • sets out what the centrally held or centrally mandated information does and does not tell us about the amount, type and sources of whistleblowing in the civil service and the experiences of whistleblowers
  • sets out practice and gaps in assuring whistleblowing arrangements and learning from whistleblowing

Video summary

Report Director, Kate Caulkin, discusses how whistleblowing is handled in the civil service.


Getting whistleblowing right is not easy. But each concern raised may provide organisations with invaluable insight to prevent or tackle a serious issue.

The significance and effectiveness of whistleblowing arrangements are not measured just by looking at overall numbers or the ‘typical’ whistleblower’s experience. Dealing with whistleblowing well matters for the individuals involved and for the culture in the organisations concerned.

Government has made some progress on data collection and increasing transparency on whistleblowing but significant challenges remain. In particular, in how government raises awareness and encourages concerns, improves the experience of whistleblowers, and uses learning to improve whistleblowing.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (19 Dec 2023)

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