Don’t trust party political “independence”

The independence of chief inspectors in areas like prisons and the border force could be threatened by the way they are selected and budgets are set, MPs say.

Administration of the five inspectorates in the justice and home affairs sectors is done by ministers in charge of those areas.

The Public Accounts Committee said there was a risk government departments “could use these controls… as levers to influence” the inspectorates.
It wants a review of the arrangements. …

… It said the Ministry of Justice “mishandled an entirely foreseeable conflict of interest” by appointing former Chief Inspector of Probation Paul McDowell in February 2014, because his wife held a senior post in a private provider which later successfully bid for six contracts.

A MoJ spokesman said: “At the time of his appointment, Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable with all the appropriate pre-appointment processes properly followed.”

He said the MoJ would liaise with the Justice Select Committee about the arrangements for the appointment of a new chief inspector of probation.
The PAC report questioned a January 2014 change allowing the home secretary to decide when to issue the border inspector reports, saying this undermined the inspectorate’s independence and had resulted in publication delays.