5 HMRC's treatment of whistleblowers |
16. In 2011, we were approached by an HMRC employee,
Osita Mba, who raised concerns about HMRC's governance of a large
tax dispute. The concerns raised by this whistleblower helped
us in our examination of how HMRC settles tax disputes.
However, HMRC's response in this case was to use powers granted
to it under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)
to authorise reviews of the whistleblower's telephone records
and online activity.
HMRC subsequently accepted that this whistleblower had acted in
response to genuinely held concerns and that there were failings
in the way it responded.
17. We have twice asked HMRC to confirm that it would
not use RIPA powers against whistleblowers in future.
HMRC noted that there was a strict requirement for staff not to
share personal data, and in cases where this happened it could
be difficult to tell whether someone was a whistleblower or if
they had malicious intent. As such they could not give us a guarantee
that these powers would not be used again.
HMRC confirmed that any further use of these powers in relation
to whistleblowers would be authorised at the most senior level
within the Department.
18. HMRC told us that it was confident it had adopted
the best practice across government around whistleblowing and
that it had improved the awareness both of people who might use
the scheme as whistleblowers and of the people who need to support
them. It had committed to separate the support given to whistleblowers
from any investigation of the whistleblower having potentially
broken the law by sharing confidential information.
HMRC also told us that it had adopted new civil service procedures,
reviewed and changed the information available to staff and provided
additional training to its managers.
HMRC noted that it had improved its monitoring
of whistleblowing and shared this information with its audit and
risk committee who could use this to challenge the non-executive
board on its approach.
50 Committee of Public Accounts, HM Revenue & Customs 2010-11 accounts: tax disputes, Sixty-first Report of Session 2010-12, HC 1531, 20 December 2011 Back
Oral evidence from inquiry: Whistleblowing, HC 1117, 24th March 2014, Qq 70-73
Oral evidence from inquiry: Whistleblowing, HC 1117, Q 70 Back
Q 293 and Oral evidence from inquiry: Whistleblowing, HC 1117, Q 72 Back
Q 293 Back
Oral evidence from inquiry: Whistleblowing, HC 1117, Q 83 Back
Qq 293-294 Back
Q 305; Oral evidence from inquiry: Whistleblowing, HC 1117, Q 72 Back
Q 305 Back