In March this year Council officers identified 2135 employees in jobs considered to be at “higher risk” of having potential conflicts of interest. They were all sent emails in April 2011 instructing them to fill out a declaration of interest form. Later that month they were sent a reminder.
“These employees are expected to submit their declarations of interests even if they have nothing to declare,” a report from the Council’s Director of HR said.
“…all employees have an obligation to declare, to their Director, any interests which could conflict with the council’s interests,” the report said. “Furthermore, any officers with pecuniary interests in a delegated decision are not permitted to take that decision; and all Delegated Decision Notification forms require the officer completing the form to declare any interests they may have.”
Level of returns “adequate”
Of the 2135 employees 2094 had sent in their returns, and of them 1571 said they had nothing to declare.
“This equates to a 98% response rate and the remaining 2% are being actively chased,” the report said. “Current levels of returns and targeted work, to make sure that decision making and recommendations are not influenced by outside interests, are adequate,” it added.
Employees considered to be in the high-risk category are those who either speak on behalf of the Council or make significant decisions, including decisions on Council spending.
“Failure to make a declaration can be considered as misconduct and may,
depending upon individual circumstances, be gross misconduct. To date,
disciplinary action has not been used to secure returns,” the report added.
The arrangements currently in place for council employees making declarations of interest are due to be reviewed by March 2012.
The HR Director’s report into the issue is being discussed by the Council’s Scrutiny Board (Resources and Council Services) today, 5th September.