SOCA audit investigation reveals serious failings

William Hughes, SOCA director general

William Hughes, SOCA director general

Britain’s equivalent of the FBI has admitted all is not well with its
internal audit and that staff have ‘failed to comply’ with procedures.

Details of what has gone wrong at the
Serious Organised Crime
are sketchy and not sufficiently ‘material’ to affect the unqualified
clean audit opinion of former comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn.

But director general and accounting officer William Hughes has admitted in a
statement that, while ‘adequate’ risk management and governance arrangements
were in place at a strategic level, ‘the operational control framework was not
adequate in all areas’.

The admission in the 2006-07 accounts was accompanied by a confession in the
annual report and accounts of the National Criminal Intelligence Service that an
independent review by an ex-Treasury official had discovered an absence of
ministerial approval for one tender.

This has since been subject to ‘a thorough review internally and robust
external review’ by, among others, the NAO. No details of this ‘significant
issue’ were given and the NAO concluded that the NCIS accounts for 2006-07 gave
‘a true and fair view’.

But Hughes said there were ‘areas of the business where the systems of
internal control were not deemed sufficiently developed to be regarded as
operating effectively’.

He said assurances have been received from the head of internal audit, but
added: ‘The weaknesses stemmed primarily from an absence of formal policies and
procedures but also, in some cases, from a failure to comply with existing

The head of internal audit concluded that SOCA did not have wholly adequate
and effective risk management, control and governance processes in place during
the 12-month period to secure the achievement of the organisation’s objectives.

An action plan to address ‘the significant control issue’ has been drawn up
to secure ‘continuous improvement of the system’.

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