Figures released via a Freedom of Information request show have revealed that Dudley Council spent more than £16,000 of public money to hire investigators between 2011 and 2015 to spy on its own staff. The investigators were tasked with compiling evidence relating to suspected fraudulent conduct by council employees.
Dudley Council said it was necessary to bring in ‘professional services’ to swiftly investigate allegations thoroughly. This resulted in nearly 60 percent of the investigations having no evidence obtained to support the allegations.
Union leaders at a regional level expressed their concern that the authority were using private investigators to spy on their staff, many of whom had ‘done nothing wrong’.
Over £9000 was spent over the period on investigations that led to staff members being cleared of any wrongdoing, including a prolonged investigation into one employee in 2014/15 that stripped £1,972.37 from the public purse.
Dudley Council says that it uses surveillance ‘to support internal resource’. They would not reveal however, the reasons why investigators were hired for individual cases. They also declined to state how many cases resulted in prosecutions.
Strategic director for resources and transformation services at Dudley Council, Philip Tart, said: “At times serious and complex allegations such as fraudulent conduct are made against staff which have to be investigated as a matter of urgency.
“In such circumstances the council has a duty to the public to investigate the allegations thoroughly. This will on occasion require us to bring in professional services to carry out this work quickly. However, the vast majority of investigations are carried out by our own staff.”
Keith Heron, regional organiser for Unison in the West Midlands, said: “We recognise that Dudley Council has a responsibility to safeguard the public’s funds, but we are concerned that they are using private investigators to snoop on staff, who often, by the council’s own standards, have done nothing wrong.
“We will be taking it up with Dudley Council to find out why so many investigations have taken place compared with other authorities.”
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