If periodic lie detector tests had been implemented at the Home Office civil servants may not have felt they were all suspected of leaking information to the press.

UK Labour Party politicians have been very vocal this week in calling for an investigation into allegations of bullying against Home Secretary, Priti Patel.  It is odd that they weren’t equally vocal regarding those made against erstwhile speaker, John Bercow. The latter has always maintained they were false allegations.

Sir Philip Rutnam

The initial allegations against Priti Patel came from Sir Philip Rutnam. He resigned his position as permanent secretary of the Home Office last week, a job he had held for over 33 years.  In a move unprecedented for a senior civil servant, he made a public statement to the media.  You can read his full statement by clicking here

Stating that he will pursue a claim for unfair constructive dismissal, Mr Rutnam turned down a financial settlement that was offered by the Cabinet Office.  He believes that there has been an orchestrated campaign against him following allegations that he had leaked information to the press against Priti Patel.  He denies doing this.

However, since then various rumours have emerged in the press and on social media.  One is that he obstructed the Home Secretary when she wanted to see the most recent report into grooming gangs. The government has decided that it is not in the public interest to publish the report. A petition has been set up demanding that it is published and has garnered almost 78,000 signatures since last Friday.

Another rumour is that Ms Patel wanted a Home Office staff member fired and Mr Rutnam refused to do it.

Media ‘sources’

As usual the media cite ‘sources’ within the Home Office alleging that Ms Patel created an ‘atmosphere of fear’.  But we don’t have the names of such sources so it’s impossible to determine whether this is the truth or not.  The same type of ‘sources’ apparently alleged that MI5 didn’t trust Ms Patel and withheld intelligence from her.  UK intelligence services have emphatically denied this.

Further allegations

Since the resignation of Mr Rutnam further allegations of bullying have surfaced dating back to 2015. These range from forcing people out of their jobs and belittling staff to shouting and throwing things at them.

Rather than wade through the raft of allegations as the media has done it appears there have been clashes due to leaks to the media from the Home Office. Ms Patel has clearly attempted to stop them.  Civil servants working for her have clearly been affronted at the way in which she has gone about it.  When false allegations are made in the workplace, our experience tells us that all staff feel they are suspects. It doesn’t make for a great working environment.

Periodic lie detector tests

Irrespective of whether these are true or false allegations the publicity surrounding them can destroy careers.

The Home Office has access to polygraph examiners and perhaps should take a leaf out of the commercial employers’ book.  Random and periodic lie detector tests provide results that show deception or lack thereof.  If deception is identified it can then lead to further investigation of an employee’s activities.

We consider that had tests been implemented from an early stage, none of us would ever have known about the issue.

PM Boris Johnson is supporting his Home Secretary so perhaps might also want to advocate that she and Sir Philip Rutnam take them.