The new reporting rules were only introduced in January this year, by the Treasury, with the aim of improving financial performance at the Home Office.
On Friday Home Office minister Hazel Blears took the rap for failing to secure parliamentary approval for the contingent liability of half the costs involved, if the department reneges on its agreement to pay the force £1m a year to operate an expanded Economic Crime Base Command Unit.
The new City role was announced by colleague minister Caroline Flint at the British Bankers’ Association annual financial crime conference.
Earlier last week Beverley Hughes, another Home Office minister, was forced to make an oral statement in the Commons over officials’ covering up a new policy by subordinates to fast-track Eastern European immigrant applications.
Blears got away with a written statement revealing the Home Office liability for an annual payment, index-linked, towards the unit’s costs which ought to have been notified to MPs two weeks earlier to give an opportunity for objections.
Financial control rules require departments to publish a minute giving particulars of proposed contingent liabilities in excess of £100,000 for which there is no prior authority 14 days before incurring it, except in cases of emergency.
She apologised to MPs in her statement and explained the Home Office ‘was unaware at the time it entered into this agreement that it was incurring the liability’.
Under the deal the Home Office and the City of London Corporation will each contribute half of an indexed £2m a year towards the extra cost of the force taking the ‘lead role’ handling fraud cases in London and the South East.
This will enable faster Serious Fraud Office investigations, with the City taking on some complex fraud investigations outside the SFO criteria.
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