Committee finds PSNI cannot show agency staff were value for money

Synopsis: The Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee has today released a report examining the use of agency staff in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), a practice which has cost £106 million since 2004.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 26 March 2014

Reference: PAC 10/13/14

The Assembly's Public Accounts Committee has today released a report examining the use of agency staff in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), a practice which has cost £106 million since 2004.

The Report examines the procurement of agency workers and highlights a number of concerns about the way that the procurement was carried out and whether the PSNI can ensure that value for money objectives were met.

Chairperson of the Committee, Michaela Boyle MLA said: "This report has identified a number of issues that concerned the Committee. Proper competitive arrangements, which would have ensured value for money, were not put in place until 2008. The current supplier has been in place since 2002, establishing a virtual monopoly in the supply of temporary staff to the PSNI. Moving forward, any new contracts awarded by the PSNI must be subject to proper options appraisal and business cases and have the approval and authority of the Policing Board.'

The Committee's report found that the PSNI's oversight of the use of agency workers was not robust and that excessive numbers of agency staff were employed for lengthy periods of time.

Michaela Boyle said: "By taking its eye off the ball, the PSNI has spent considerably more than was necessary on agency workers. The Committee received the PSNI's assurance that there is now a "robust, centrally monitored process" for appointing temporary staff. The Committee expects an update report from the Department of Justice to demonstrate that improvements in governance have been delivered, due to processes put into place in 2011."

The Committee agreed that there are sound operational reasons for employing temporary staff in the PSNI. Some roles undoubtedly require policing skills: many others do not. However, the Committee criticised the lack of accountability of agency workers filling policing roles, with no power for the Police Ombudsman to regulate their conduct.

The Committee also acknowledged that there were concerns over equality issues arising from the PSNI's employment of its former officers.

The Chairperson concluded: "The implementation of Patten and the introduction of a radical new structure for policing over the last ten years represented an enormous challenge. The Committee does not underestimate the difficulties faced by the PSNI but we also must ensure that the use of agency staff must be well managed and appropriate.

"We welcome the PSNI's assurance that it has plans to both reduce the use of agency staff and manage all temporary contracts more rigorously."

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