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Friday, March 30, 2012

‘Jobs for boys’ as police body pays ex-chiefs £1,100 a day

‘Jobs for boys’ as police body pays ex-chiefs £1,100 a day

Published on Friday 23 March 2012 23:09

THE country’s most influential policing body has paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to consultants without applying the spending controls it tells forces up and down the country to abide by, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Despite the severe cuts being implemented across the police service, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has handed out the contracts – often to former senior police officers – at pay rates as high as £1,100 a day without being able to detail why they were not openly advertised or who set the pay levels.

In contrast, ACPO has sent out a binding procurement strategy for the country’s 43 police forces including the key principle of forces “securing further supplier competition and price leverage”.

The revelations prompted strong criticism from Yorkshire Parliamentarians last night. Skipton and Ripon Tory MP Julian Smith said the appointments created the impression of a “gold-plated jobs for the boys club” and he would raise the issue with the Home Secretary.

Baroness Harris, former Lib Dem police spokeswoman in the House of Lords and a former chairman of North Yorkshire Police Authority, said the situation smacked of ACPO indulging in an unacceptable “old pals’ act”.

ACPO said it would be reviewing its procedures and police cuts had “sharply reduced” its use of consultants.

The payments – which totalled £205,982 in one case – were nearly all made to private companies set up by the consultants, raising a fresh question mark against the use of such payment mechanisms amid concerns they maybe used to avoid income tax.

However, the Government, which, along with police authorities, provides most of ACPO’s funding, admits it had no knowledge of the consultant contracts. Despite the funding and ACPO’s high-profile public role, the Home Office was unaware of the payments because ACPO is actually constituted as a private company.

Instead, they have been obtained through freedom of information requests made by the Yorkshire Post in the wake of ACPO joining the list of public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The payments include £194,517 paid for the services of former Essex Chief Constable David Stevens, initially at a rate of £900 a day and subsequently £1,100 a day. The payments were made to his consultancy company, Devana Services.

Former Detective Superintendent Brian Shelby was paid £205,982 through his company, Pyrope Solutions, while former Cumbria Assistant Chief Constable Graham Sunderland received £182,223 through his company, Epic (GS).

In total, more than £800,000 was paid to 10 consultants, largely over the last three years, from ACPO’s central office. The total does not, however, include other consultants contracted by what ACPO terms as separate “business areas”. ACPO said it was unable to locate costs relating to all consultants within the timescale allowed under the FOI Act.

As a private company, ACPO is not subject to public sector contract rules which usually insist on competition to ensure fairness and best value.

An ACPO spokeswoman said the organisation did have its own financial regulations which required three alternative quotes for spending above £1,000 and a tendering for amounts above £50,000.

But pressed on how consultants were contracted, ACPO said its human resources department held virtually no information on the appointments. It was unable to detail who made the appointments or who set the pay rates.

Instead, a spokeswoman said: “The regulations state that where realistically feasible, alternative sources should be compared to obtain best value for money. Where temporary appointments were made based on a requirement for specialist knowledge and skills, this may not have been realistic or possible. In these cases payments would be commensurate withprevious experience or rates of pay in comparable police service roles.”

In a statement, ACPO added: “Temporary appointments such as these are the exception and have sharply reduced in line with financial pressures. ACPO will also review procedures for use of temporary staff to ensure they are up to date.”

But Mr Smith said he was “shocked” by the consultancy arrangements, adding APCO must be “fully transparent”.

“Further questions that need answering include the basis for paying these huge amounts of money, who authorised them and what process of procurement was used,” the MP said. “In addition, APCO needs to come clean as to how many other consultants were engaged in this way and not wait for investigations such as the one run by the Yorkshire Post to uncover them.

Mr Smith said he would be raising concerns with the Home Secretary and Sir Hugh Orde, president of APCO. He will also be contacting HM Revenue and Customs to ensure tax regulations have been complied with over payments to personal service companies.

He added: “This story yet again raises very serious questions about the status of APCO as a private company when it relies on so much taxpayer cash. It is surely the moment to call time on the current set-up and put in place a new structure that allows the spotlight to be shone on everything it does.

“Whether through appearance or reality, this story makes APCO look more like a gold-plated jobs for the boys club rather than the above reproach leadership organisation for our country’s police forces that it has to be.”

Baroness Harris said close connections within senior officer ranks were potentially unhealthy when awarding contracts. “If they feel that they know somebody who could do the job without having to go to all the expense of tendering maybe they feel it’s not necessary. If that is the case, it can’t be right. It should be open, that’s the whole point.” She added it was “entirely wrong” that ACPO was a private firm and said it had to be much more open and transparent.

The Home Office said: “Like all organisations reliant on public money, ACPO has a responsibility to spend appropriately. As part of the work to create a new police professional body, we are engaged in discussions with ACPO about their future role and funding.”

Details missing from crucial documentation

Published on Saturday 24 March 2012 06:00

SENIOR police officers began lucrative consultancy work with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) only days after retirement from their “day jobs”, it can be revealed.

Graham Sunderland, who served for 25 years with West Yorkshire Police, left his job as Cumbria Assistant Chief Constable in February 2009 and took up a contract for his services with ACPO at the beginning of March.

And David Stevens left his role as Chief Constable of Essex Police at the end of June 2005 and began work as a £900 a day ACPO consultant at the start of the following month.

ACPO said Mr Sunderland was taken on to formalise a UK-wide strategy for Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) at major incidents.

While a serving officer at Cumbria, Mr Sunderland did work in the same area for ACPO while continuing to carry out his role as an assistant chief constable.

Many senior chief officers take on specialist roles with ACPO to formulate policies across the policing service and carry out those duties out alongside their full-time jobs with the forces that pay their wages.

Mr Sunderland was paid about £90,000 a year as Cumbria’s Assistant Chief Constable but ACPO paid his company EPIC (GS) £182,223 over two years for solely working on the DVI role.

The payments were funded by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office but the contract was with ACPO.

ACPO said he was given two year-long contracts in 2009 and 2010, with each specifying a payment of £60,000 to Mr Sunderland’s company for not less than 120 days work.

A spokeswoman said the extra £62,223 related to payments for travel, accommodation, VAT and extra days worked beyond the stipulated minimum of 120.

Copies of Mr Sunderland’s contracts, obtained under a freedom of information request, did not mention pay rates for any work beyond 120 days and said £60,000 was the agreed payment for the duration of the contract.

ACPO also said the strategic role for DVI was now again being carried out by a serving chief officer.

A similar scenario was presented by ACPO for a series of contracts given to Mr Stevens’ private company which resulted in total payments of £194,517. A spokeswoman said he was brought in to chair a programme to improve information sharing across the service following the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders. ACPO said Mr Stevens had been chair of the same programme board while Essex chief constable and “was therefore retained to ensure delivery of this project”.

But the contracts awarded by ACPO included three with no apparent clarity on how much work Mr Stevens was required to do or any limits on potential payment.

His company Devana Services was initially given a three-month contract in July 2005 which began after his retirement from Essex Police the previous month. It said he was required to work a minimum of 40 days at a rate of £900 a day.

A second contract followed in October 2005 running for two months which said Mr Stevens would work for a maximum of 40 days at the same rate.

It was two-and-a-half years until the next ACPO contract began in May 2008, running to March 2009. The rate was now £1,100 a day but the contract did not stipulate any minimum or maximum number of days.

Year-long contracts for 2009/10 and 2010/11 then followed, at the same rate and with no qualification on the number of days worked.

ACPO was able to provide an internal record of Mr Stevens’ agreeing to take the role for an initial three months in 2005 but could not provide any further records.

In common with other consultancy contracts, ACPO was unable to provide any specific rationale for the pay rates. It was also unable to clarify why there was a two-and-a-half year gap between Mr Stevens’ contracts in 2005 and 2008.

Asked who had actually made the appointments, a spokeswoman said: “The people responsible for making the appointments are the people with the oversight for that line of work.”

Although ACPO is a private company it does have financial regulations which state a tendering process should be undertaken for contracts above £50,000.

The spokeswoman said: “Where temporary appointments were made based on a requirement for specialist knowledge and skills, this may not have been realistic or possible.

“In these cases payments would be commensurate with previous experience or rates of pay in comparable police service roles.”

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