THE country’s most senior policing body is to launch an inquiry after a Yorkshire Post investigation revealed former police chiefs had been paid up to £1,100 a day as consultants.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) made the payments without being able to detail why the posts were not openly advertised or who had set the pay rates, prompting claims it was operating a “gold-plated jobs for the boys club”.
ACPO has now said it will carry out its own investigation into the appointment of consultants to review the spending and how financial controls were applied.
The inquiry will be run by Staffordshire Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, ACPO’s lead on professional standards. ACPO said “external scrutiny” would be provided by Transparency International, which describes itself as a “non-governmental anti-corruption organisation”.
The Yorkshire Post’s investigation revealed payments of up to £205,982 had been made to consultants, many of whom were former chief officers. The payments were nearly all made to private companies set up by the consultants, raising a fresh question mark against the use of such mechanisms amid concerns they maybe used to avoid income tax.
The revelations prompted Skipton and Ripon Tory MP Julian Smith to raise his concerns with the Home Secretary, HM Revenue and Customs and ACPO itself, which has prompted the investigation. But last night he questioned why a request for information on consultant spending sent in a letter to Sir Hugh Orde, ACPO president, had not been responded to directly.
Mr Smith, who previously said the consultancy payments smacked of a “gold-plated jobs for the boys club”, has now written again to press for more detail.
One central concern is the potential scale of payments made to consultants. Last month, the Yorkshire Post revealed more than £800,000 was paid to 10 consultants, largely over the last three years, from ACPO’s central office.
But the total, obtained after Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, did not include other consultants contracted by what ACPO terms as separate “business areas”. ACPO said it was unable to locate costs relating to all consultants within the timescale allowed under the FOI Act.
Sir Hugh’s letter to Mr Smith said: “I agree entirely with you that it is important every organisation which receives money from the taxpayer is open and transparent about how that money is spent.”
It went on: “At exceptional times... the appointment of people with particular skills and experience to temporary positions can offer an efficient route to getting things done, which ultimately, help keep the public safe.
“Of course when such an approach is taken it incurs a cost, and it should meet the tests of transparency and value for money.
“The review will ensure that we are absolutely clear about the way in which appointments were made in the past and can have full confidence in arrangements for the future.”
Mr Smith has also secured a Commons debate on Tuesday when he plans to amplify both the issue of consultant spending and wider concerns about ACPO which is publicly funded but constituted as a private company.
The consultancy payments included £194,517 paid for the services of former Essex Chief Constable David Stevens, initially at a rate of £900 a day and subsequently £1,100 a day.
The payments were made to his consultancy company, Devana Services.
Former Detective Superintendent Brian Shelby was paid £205,982 through his company, Pyrope Solutions. Former Cumbria Assistant Chief Constable Graham Sunderland received £182,223 through his company, Epic (GS).