Ok, just for those nice people from a particular public sector organisation, who keep regularly searching Google for "Serious Organised Crime Agency" links, here is a slightly belated comment on the Home Office press release which announced the appointment of Sir Stephen Lander as the new Chair and of Bill Hughes (formerly Director General of the National Crime Squad) as the new Director General, effective from September 2004, even though SOCA will not be operational until 1st April 2006.
Sir Stephen, who retired as the Director General of the Security Service MI5 in 2002, has been a non-executive director of Northgate Information Solutions and a strategic advisor to the "internet security product" startup being set up by the IT consultancy Detica. Both of these companies have substantial IT consultancy and outsourcing contracts with the secret bits of the UK Government.
So who runs the National Crime Squad etc. for the next 18 months ? Will all the experienced officers and technical support staff from the National Crime Squad, from the National Criminal Intelligence Service and from the Her Majesty's Customs and Excise investigations departments etc. end up having to effectively re-apply for their old jobs, with all that implies for loss of morale and reduced operational efficiency, which is so common in large organisational mergers ?
Is the Home Office really capable of the change management and "business process re-engineering" needed, to do this smoothly, or will this be farmed out to the usual suspects amongst the Big Consultancies, a process which inevitably seems to add months to the decision making process about who will still have a job in the new Agency, and to a brain drain of the best people ?
Presumably the "serious organised criminals" will continue to operate in the meantime.
Nowhere have we seen any mention of any independent oversight and complaints procedure which can investigate worries and complaints about the new agency from members of the public.
Our questions about the White Paper "One Step Ahead: A 21st Century Strategy to Defeat Organised Criminals " which sets forth the Home Office's vague plans for SOCA remain.
The questions raised by the Association of Police Authorities also remain c.f. Appendix A(.pdf) of the APA's response to the Home Office regarding governance arrangements for SOCA.
e.g. Who will fund the new Agency: central government funding or a "top slice" from existing local police budgets ? Will, as has been noted with the creation of NCS and NCIS, the effect of national pay grades add to the overal costs, given the natural tendancy to round up pay scales to the highest equivalent grade across the component agencies ?
How will the elitism and resentment problems which are so evident with, for example, the FBI in the USA, when dealing with local police forces be prevented ? Will this situation be even worse in the uK, given that there is no clear distinction in the UK law between "Federal/National" level crimes and "local" ones, like there is in the USA ?
Will there be a "brain drain" of experienced investigators from local Police forces to the new Agency, leaving local Police forces undermanned , whilst at the same time, still often having to target the same organised criminal ?
The APA's note (.pdf) on the stakeholder meeting held in February 2004 seems to reccomend the creation of a Non Departmental Public Body, clearly established by statute, to oversee the new Agency.
How much were the "executive recruitment" company Veredus (formerely PricewaterhouseCoopers Executive Search & Selection and Interim Management) actually paid, given that the they ended up choosing Bill Hughes, the Director General of NCS, who was present as a "stakeholder" at this meeting, to be the new Director General of SOCA ?
Detica might be familiar to readers of this blog in relation to the spin and disinformation which the MORI opinion poll that they paid for about the public attitude to ID Cards created i.e. the misrepresentation of the results of the poll as showing 80% public support, for a scheme where their own poll figures showed that two thirds admitted that they did not actually know the details of what the Home Office was actually proposing, and that most people did not want to pay anything at all as a registration fee, for what would be in effect a poll tax etc.