News & what's on - Written by on Sunday, March 2, 2014 8:09 - 0 Comments

Good news: SFO goes cap in hand again for money.

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harlequin-fraud-office“The magnitude of the SFO’s request for additional resources by means of a Supplementary Estimate, when considered against the size of the Office’s budget, is a cause of considerable interest for us, and we consider that the Supplementary, and the funding arrangements for so-called Blockbuster cases which underlie it, are matters which should be drawn to the attention of the House before it is asked to approve the Estimates. We intend to pursue with the Attorney General the question of whether he considers that the current funding arrangements of the SFO are sustainable.”

This is the conclusion of a report following a request from the SFO for additional funding totalling £19 million on top of its existing budget representing an increase of 52% in the SFO’s resource requirement for the year from £36,607,000 to £55,607,000.

This is on top of SFO £5 million additional funding already paid this year.

The SFO says the additional funding was needed “in respect of the Tchenguiz litigation, to meet other legal liabilities, to provide additional funding for the LIBOR investigation, and to provide additional funding for two further significant investigations” namely the Barclays and Rolls Royce investigations.

David Green, Director of the SFO said:

“This funding reflects the arrangement through which “Blockbuster” cases are supported. It is in the nature of the SFO’s work that significant additional funding can be required at short notice. In a very short space of time, it can become clear that an investigation, as wide as that into Libor, is required. At the same time, I consider it would be unacceptable to have expert investigators, lawyers and accountants as permanent employees waiting around in case such an investigation is required.”

and added that he is keen that an “appropriate and more certain funding model can be agreed by all those with an interest”.

Opinion

Many will seize on the request for additional funding by the SFO as another example of poor management focussing on mistakes made by the SFO over recent years, many during the tenure of the former Director, Richard Alderman.

These detract from the central issue.

In a move which was penny wise but pound foolish the UK government slashed the SFO’s budget under Richard Alderman.   

The historic budget cuts were a mistake (and Richard Alderman was mistaken to go along with them) and in our view a factor in some of the agencies errors in recent years.

That the present funding model of the SFO is now being debated and pursued with the Attorney General is welcomed.

But.

Requests for extra funding now should not be used as a stick to beat the SFO.  They represent realism in investigating and prosecuting serious fraud.

The budget was never enough.

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