Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
60. The fact is that Customs and Excise thought
in 1998 that they had taken steps, having had the shock of this
diversion, and you come along and say there are still more they
can take to improve serious weaknesses.
(Mr Roques) Yes, but they had taken steps. I think
there were still more, obviously as I made my recommendations.
61. On the National Investigation Service point,
you draw attention to a lot of weaknesses there in the management,
poor report systems and light oversight and little strategic planning.
You then say it performs reasonably well despite all that. You
say, "Its recent focus on the development of strategies should
enhance performance substantially". Then you immediately
go on to call for a major review of it. Is it performing well
(Mr Roques) I meant to say it did well because in
terms of the processes it adopted and its effectiveness on investigating
an individual caseand I examined eight or nine casesI
thought those cases were well managed in themselves. In terms
of setting the strategy for the Department between where you allocate
resources, to which fraud aspect, including drugs, what the relative
importance is of prosecution and prevention and disruption, basically
I would say the prosecution process which has been their cultural
drive is shown to be almost the least effective way of attacking
this problem. The resource requirements are absolutely massive
because the time from when, from their point of view, the case
is complete and the amount of effort then to take it through the
courts is absolutely enormous in terms of resource use. Therefore
I would say it was that strategic management and that assessment
of best use of resources which did not exist at all. That did
not prevent them, if a team was sent out on an individual case,
doing a good job in my view.
62. Your report has 65 recommendations, 57 accepted,
others either not or modified and just one not accepted, is it?
Overall at this point, how do you feel about the response to your
(Mr Roques) I thought the response was good. I apologise
for repeating myself but I think the most important one which
they have not followed is the structure within finance and analysis
and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If they succeed
in doing what I think they should do with their structure, then
I am delighted with their structure. If it does not succeed then
somebody should revisit as to whether my structure might have
a higher probability of success. That is the only area of important
63. You draw attention at one point in your
report to the absence of discussion concerning Excise at the Board.
I think you mentioned it twice. Were you very surprised about
(Mr Roques) Yes. I was very surprised by the working
of the Board, which in my mind rarely discussed any of the things
which I would have expected them to discuss regularly. Obviously
I focused on Excise because that was what my task was, but as
far as I could see, they did not discuss operational issues and
performance issues and they did not look at data; they had hopeless
management accounting information. All the things I would have
expected a "board" to do, it did not do. In their defence,
on the face of it they had established committees which you might
have thought would do all these things. If the committees had
been very effective, then that would have been fine, but the committees
did not seem to do any of those things either. As a combination
I thought it was extremely surprising.
64. What comes across to me at any rate, certainly
from the earlier structure of the Board which you detailI
think there have been changes sinceis that it does not
seem to have been a real Board.
(Mr Roques) I agree; I do not think it was.
65. Nothing like the board of a commercial enterprise
(Mr Roques) No, it was more like the board of a charity.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for appearing