Gifts and Interests Register
Section 117 of the Local Government Act 1972 covers disclosure by officers of interest in contracts. It is also in accordance with the requirements of the Bribery Act 2010, where an offence occurs when a person offers, gives or promises to give a ‘financial or other advantage’ to another individual in exchange for ‘improperly’ performing a ‘relevant function or activity’.
Blackpool Council had been collating register of interest forms for a number of years using paper-based forms sent out to services areas by designated co-ordinators and collated onto spreadsheets. This process was not only extremely labour intensive, inaccurate, but more importantly did not provide a good response rate. Registers of gifts were also registered in a similar manner.
The service required an online submission method that provided a quick and more efficient way for staff to register their interest(s) or submit a nil return as well as an improved collection and collation process to save the co-ordinators time and effort.
There was also a need for a reporting mechanism driven from the new data to ensure that the Council was compliant in its duty to register interests and the receipt of gifts and hospitality and that the information could be interrogated to identify the number of returns for each Directorate, between a given time period and specific senior manager cohorts.
The solution that was created resulted in a dashboard where individual staff could see their current and previous interests and gits submissions and that allowed them to submit new interests and gifts quickly and easily with a degree of pre-population to ensure time savings, but also accuracy when it came to reporting. This was all tied up at the end with a suite of reports to measure compliance and registration information across the organisation and individual departments where required.
The online system has been in operation for just over two years and there has been a significant increase in the number of returns across the Council, particularly in two Directorates where the previous response rates had been extremely poor at 36% and 55%. This year the overall return rate was 92% with improvements in the two identified Directorates returning 94% and 88% of their registers respectively. It has been the best rate of returns received.
User response to the new system has been over-whelmingly positive:
- It was very straightforward. Definitely preferable compared to having to print a document, fill it in and re-scan like previously.
- Very straightforward and easy
- Wow! How easy and straight forward was that. I am very impressed with how user friendly and easy it is.
- Saves on paper and has gifts and conflicts in same place so easier to find. I found the process easy to complete.
- The process was really easy so only positive from me.
- Done! Straight forward.
- I have just done mine and it took me a round 30 seconds! Very quick and easy to use.
- Very easy and straight forward!
- Very quick and easy to use. Much better than having to do a paper version.
- It took about 2 seconds to complete, so it’s about 1000 x better than the paper version.
- Dead easy peasy :)
- One stop shop for users to input both interests and gifts
- Easier completion for users
- Time saving on collation
- Cost saving on printed materials
- Up to date live reporting
- Increased return rates
Moving forward the service and Pentagull will continue to make incremental improvements where applicable based on office feedback.
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