Why has the City of London Police been outsourcing its back office?

Police officer

3 September 2019

By Gillian Dalley

According to its website Action Fraud is “the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland... it is run by the City of London Police working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) who are responsible for assessment of the reports and to ensure that your fraud reports reach the right place.”

In practice, contrary to common expectations, Action Fraud is a bridging or sorting hub, and not an investigating body, and receives and sorts direct reports from victims before passing them on to local police services for investigation where appropriate.

So far so good (though arguably the evidence to justify this centralisation of the handling of local malpractice is scant). However, the service – essentially a call centre – has been outsourced to Concentrix , a company previously sacked from an outsourced HMRC contract worth up to £75million in 2016 following reports of its 'guilty until proven innocent' approach to welfare claimants. According to an undercover investigation by the Times newspaper into Concentrix’s work for Action Fraud, the Action Fraud/Concentrix call-centre service being provided leaves much to be desired: cases dismissed without proper consideration, very few cases leading to successful prosecutions, and new staff being poorly trained and wrongly instructed by managers who casually refer to victims as “psychos,” “morons” and “screwballs.” Last year, Action Fraud filed 270,000 crime reports, out of 500,000 reports received in total, only 10,000 of which led to the catching of criminals . Since the publication of the Times report, the City of London Police have said they will investigate the contract and quality of the service. Police Scotland had already pulled out of the deal for all UK police forces to use the service before this latest news.

Questions remain:

  • Why does the City of London Police need to outsource the running of a function which has been specifically delegated to them – and how did it arrive at the decision to outsource (and was this likelihood known to the Treasury or Home Office before the arrangement to delegate was agreed)?
  • Why does it delegate the duties to a company like Concentrix with an already proven track record of poor practice (where was the due diligence)? and
  • Why bring the private sector into a public service like the Police?
Police officer

Image credit: Ernest G Bilko, Creative Commons

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