Serious Fraud Office Governance Arrangements (May 16)

Date of publication
24 May 2016
Serious Fraud Office
Inspection type
Serious Fraud Office Reports

This inspection was carried out to evaluate whether the SFO structures, procedures, leadership, accountability and direction are effective and efficient, and provide the strategic direction needed to achieve its intended outcome for stakeholders.

Inspectors found that there has been a positive transformational change to the direction and purpose of the SFO led by the Director and the SFO board, supported by a Senior Civil Service (SCS) group and other senior managers. The many positive developments that have taken place since the current Director was appointed four years ago include:

  • Overall, the work of the SFO board has significantly improved the reputation of the organisation externally and provided much needed inclusiveness and direction internally.
  • There appears a good level of challenge at board meetings with the chair being described as inclusive and the board as collegiate.
  • Although casework is not managed at board level, the existing process provides a good level of assurance to the board. Since 2012 new layers of challenge from senior managers, General Counsel, the Special Advisor and Director have been built into casework processes which have added significant value, oversight and viewpoint.
  • Risk management has improved and a framework of risk is in place.
  • An improvement in the staff survey results from 2011 to 2015. These results also indicate a much better approach to staff engagement and core values since 2011.
  • External relations and stakeholder feedback has been largely positive and has improved considerably over the past three years. There is evidence of good inter-agency cooperation nationally and internationally and progress on sharing experiences has been positive.
  • The SFO has a complex and demanding stakeholder and accountability landscape which, overall, is managed well. The engagement with the AGO is however less effective than it could be, which stems from the lack of clear expectations.

However, there are a number of challenges which remain, including:

  • Although the board and committee structure has served the SFO well there are various weaknesses which do not align to best practice. The board is too large and there is no division between the strategic board and the executive. There is inefficient duplication in the membership and work of various groups.
  • The Director has too many responsibilities and has taken on, and shared among the SCS group, many of the corporate and business responsibilities which are normally the remit of a CEO.
  • The business plan is weak and there is little evidence that it is actively reviewed.
  • The blockbuster funding model is not representing best value for money and prevents the SFO building future capability and capacity in-house.
  • Generally, value for money is not understood as well as it could be.
  • There is no up to date comprehensive written risk strategy, and there remains a lack of clarity over roles and ownership of risk. Overall, the inspectors’ findings indicate that the SFO has made significant strides to improve its approach to risk but still has work to do if it is to embed risk management across the organisation successfully.

SFO Governance Arrangements (May 16) (273 kB)