1 Accountability to Parliament and
the local public |
1. The Mobile Information Programme (the Programme)
ran between 2008 and 2010. The Home Office (the Department) distributed
£71 million of central funding through the National Policing
Improvement Agency (the Agency) to police forces to enable them
to buy over 41,000 new mobile devices (such as Blackberrys and
Personal Data Assistants) for police officers and police community
support officers. The Department intended the Programme to support
increased visibility of police officers, increase the efficiency
and effectiveness of police forces, and reduce bureaucracy through
the use of mobile technology.
2. Police forces are funded by a combination
of central government grants from the Home Office and the Department
for Communities and Local Government, and local precepts set by
police authorities. Police forces working with their authorities
set priorities for local policing and have a large degree of choice
in how they resource and support them.
From November 2012, directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners
will replace police authorities. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of
Constabulary role has been expanded to include the examination
of value for money in policing and the Department told us that
it has commissioned the Inspectorate to produce a series of reports
on the value for money achieved by forces. These reports will
include, for example, forces' spend on IT and on staff.
3. The Department expects that accountability
to Parliament will be assured using the framework set out in the
accountability systems statement for police and crime reduction,
but they have not yet specified what datasets or metrics are important
for the determination of value for money.
The Department's framework relies on Her Majesty's Inspectorate
of Constabulary, in addition to its inspectorial role, providing
data on police forces' spending across areas such as crimes recorded,
personnel deployed and services procured. The Department expects
to be able to use this data to provide assurance to Parliament
that value for money is being achieved at a system level across
the Police Service.
4. The Department told us that the Home Secretary
will retain the power to intervene on value for money grounds
if he or she thinks that a particular force or Police & Crime
Commissioner is failing the taxpayer.
The Department described three tests that could drive such an
intervention: the results of an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate
of Constabulary; a cause célèbre; or, if the police
service itself, through the planned police professional body,
pointed out that a force was not adhering to professional standards.
The Department stated that when to intervene would be a judgement
for ministers in each case and would depend very much on circumstances.
If, for example, a particular force and Police & Crime Commissioner
had decided within their policing plan and budget not to invest
in a particular central technology programme and could justify
their reasons for not doing so to the local public, then the Department
felt ministers would be unlikely to intervene.
5. The Comptroller and Auditor General's access
to police forces' spending is, under current legislation, limited
to those central Departmental grants which are ring-fenced. In
the past the Audit Commission was responsible for assessing and
reporting on value for money achieved by Police Authorities. Parliamentary
scrutiny now and in the future relies on the Department having
good quality information on the relative performance of police
forces and also the impact that specific initiatives may have.
However, the information that the Department and Agency held on
the local costs and benefits of the Mobile Information Programme
was poor. The Agency
set up its framework to measure benefits from the Programme in
2009, some months after the initial delivery of devices.
There was little central measurement by the Department, Agency
or by the Inspectorate, of programme outcomes. The Agency's final
evaluation focused on measuring the increase in officer visibility
and provided little evidence to suggest that the Programme had
achieved its objectives to increase efficiency and effectiveness
and to reduce bureaucracy.
6. The Agency told us that, at the time, it was
not within the remit of the Inspectorate to examine the specific
benefits resulting from central initiatives such as the Mobile
Information Programme. The Agency did not confirm whether the
Inspectorate would have a role to examine specific centrally funded
initiatives in the future.
The Department was not able to confirm the extent to which the
National Audit Office would have access to information at the
local level other than through the Inspectorate.
2 C&AG's Report Para 1.8 and 3.4 Back
C&AG's Report Para 1.1 and 1.2 Back
Q 117 Back
Q 155; Committee of Public Accounts, Seventy-ninth Report of Session
2010-12, Accountability for public money - progress report,
HC 1503, Ev 51 Back
Q 155 Back
Q 155 Back
Q 161 Back
Q 165 Back
C&AG's Report Para 3.5, 3.18-3.21 Back
Q 133 Back
C&AG's Report Para 3.21 Back
Q 123 Back
Q 137-140 Back