CREST is committed to the highest standards of openness, probity and accountability. An important aspect of accountability and transparency is a mechanism to enable member companies and individuals to voice concerns in a responsible and effective manner.
It should be emphasised that this policy is intended to assist Member Companies and individuals who believe they have discovered malpractice or impropriety. It is not designed to question financial or business decisions taken by CREST nor should it be used to reconsider any matters which have already been addressed under harassment, complaint or other procedures.
This policy is designed to deal with concerns raised in relation to specific issues of wrongdoing which may be illegal, against the public interest or damaging to the reputation of CREST or its members. Any such actions would be contrary to the CREST Code of Ethics and/or Codes of Conduct.
If you are aware of incidents or activity by a CREST member company or an individual that either holds a CREST qualification or who has taken an CREST examination that is contrary to our Code of Ethics or our Codes of Conduct, you should not hesitate to get in touch with CREST and ‘speak up’ or ‘blow the whistle’. We recognise that there may be concerns that by reporting such issues, the discloser may be subject to some adverse action so the process below outlines how to report an incident anonymously if desired and the protection that this will offer.
CREST endorses the provisions set out below to ensure that member companies or individuals should not feel at a disadvantage for raising legitimate concerns.
What is Whistle-Blowing?
Whistle-blowing is when an act, generally illegal, is disclosed which the person committing the act would not wish to become public knowledge. The wrongdoing disclosed must be in the public interest, so it must affect others, for example, the wider membership or the public. Officially this is called ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’.
Whistle-Blowing is distinct from complaints, employment disputes and grievance. Further information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing
Whistle-Blowing in the United Kingdom is protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/23/contents)
Complaints that count as whistle-blowing and which are protected by law are:
- Criminal activity
- Financial malpractice, fraud or impropriety
- Dangers to health and safety or the environment
- Improper conduct or unethical behaviour, for example bribery or corruption
- Failure to comply with a legal obligation or statutes, for example an organisation not having the right insurance
- Attempts to conceal any of these
Complaints that conform with CREST criteria for whistleblowing include:
- Any form of unethical behaviour that could potentially cause harm (including disrepute) to individuals, institutions, or the industry as a whole
Complaints that do not count as whistle-blowing are:
- Expressions of personal dissatisfaction (eg. with a product or service being received). Anyone that wishes to raise these types of complaints should follow CREST’s Complaints Process
- A dispute about their own employment position or contract. If an individual experiences such a dispute, it should be taken up with the employer or another responsible body. CREST cannot investigate or take any action over such instances for individuals who are not employed by CREST
- Personal grievances (for example bullying, harassment, discrimination) unless the particular case is in the public interest. These should be reported under the employer’s grievance policy
Where appropriate, member companies and CREST qualified individuals should utilise the CREST Complaints processes available here: https://crest-approved.org/about-crest/international-governance-structure/index.html
This policy is designed to offer protection to those who disclose concerns provided that the disclosure is made:
- in good faith
- in the reasonable belief of the individual making the disclosure that it tends to show malpractice or impropriety as outlined above
If an individual makes an allegation in good faith, which is not confirmed by subsequent investigation, no action will be taken against that individual. In making a disclosure, the individual should exercise due care to ensure the accuracy of the information. If, however, an individual makes malicious or vexatious allegations, and particularly if they persist with making them, sanctions applied may be applied.
How to make a Disclosure
Anyone has the right to whistle-blow if they feel it is right to do so in the public interest. Whilst CREST does not expect absolute proof of wrongdoing, the whistle blower will need to show the reasons for concern.
Any Member company or an individual who either holds a CREST qualification or who has taken a CREST examination making such information known to CREST through the appropriate channels will not face any adverse or unfavourable treatment for such disclosure.
Who receives the disclosure
Messages sent to the email address below will normally be received by the CREST President and the CREST Operations Manager for processing. If the discloser believes that this would be inappropriate, they should state this in their first contact with CREST, without any obligation to reveal the information they wish to share, and the remainder of the correspondence will be directed to an independent third party. Where necessary, non-disclosure agreements will be in place, or will be put in place.
However, if an independent investigator has already been appointed to handle a matter, a separate email address is available that will only be received by them – [email protected] . For the avoidance of any doubt, in these instances no CREST members of staff, contracted organisations, Executive or Advisory Board members will have visibility of email messages sent to that address.
How to Contact Us
This Policy encourages individuals to put their name to any disclosures they make. Concerns expressed anonymously are less credible, but they may be considered. In exercising this discretion, the factors that will be taken into account include:
- The seriousness of the issues raised
- The credibility of the concern
- The likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources
If the discloser has provided their name and contact details, CREST will acknowledge receipt of the concern. It may be necessary to seek further contact to gain additional information. The allegation will then be investigated as follows and an appropriate response determined.
Once a concern has been raised, we have a duty to pursue the matter. This means that it will not be possible to prevent the matter being investigated by subsequently withdrawing the allegation. If the outcome results in a proven case of wrongdoing/malpractice, action will be taken against the relevant party/ies.
Depending on the nature of the concern, CREST may appoint independent investigators (“investigating officer(s)”) to conduct the investigation. Appropriate non-disclosure agreements will be put in place.
If there is evidence of criminal activity, then the investigating officer(s) should inform the police. CREST will ensure that any internal investigation does not hinder a formal police investigation.
CREST or the investigating officer(s) will keep the informant apprised that the investigation has been concluded and the outcome of the investigation, where possible. Not all details of the investigation may be disclosed as it may not be appropriate to do so due to confidentiality or legal reasons.
If the allegation is not proven by the investigation and if the whistle-blower did not deliberately raise an allegation known to be untrue, no action will be taken against the discloser.
If the allegation was made due to a genuine misunderstanding, the individual(s) who were the subject of the investigation will be expected to bear no malice or ill feeling towards their accuser (if the accuser has been identified) and those colleagues should not mistreat a whistle-blower.
If, however, the investigation concludes that an allegation was raised that was known not to be true, CREST reserves the right to take further action against the discloser.
CREST reserves the right to pursue a member or individual for damages, if appropriate.
Due to the varied nature of these sorts of complaints, which may involve internal/external investigators and/or the police, it is not possible to lay down precise timescales for such investigations. The investigating officer(s) should ensure that the investigations are undertaken as quickly as possible without affecting the quality and depth of those investigations.
If the investigation is a prolonged one, the investigating officer(s) should keep the discloser informed, in writing, as to the progress of the investigation and when it might be concluded. All responses to the discloser should be in writing, preferably sent to a home address and marked “confidential”.
Making your disclosure anonymously or confidentially
It is the right of the discloser to choose to remain anonymous if they are concerned about repercussions. Whilst CREST will try to respect these wishes with regard to confidentiality, this may not be possible in the following circumstances:
- the police, fraud prevention agencies or other law enforcement agencies require information from the disclosure in order to investigate or prevent crime, including fraud
- CREST is obligated to do so by a court of law
- another person or organisation to whom CREST is required by law to disclose the identity of the discloser
It should also be noted that someone may be able to recognise the identity of the discloser due to the nature or circumstances of the disclosure.
Please note that if concerns are reported to the media, in most cases the discloser will lose their whistle-blower legal rights.