UK

Serious Fraud Office 'Failing To Perform' After Acting On Just 3 of 5,600 Tip-Offs

08/08/2013 16:16 BST | Updated 08/08/2013 16:22 BST
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The Serious Fraud Office has acted on just three out of nearly 5,600 tip-offs it has received, it can be revealed.

With the City of London fighting off scandals such as the fixing of the interbank lending rate Libor, the Serious Fraud Office has admitted that they have not launched a single formal investigation as a result of the 5,582 tips it has received since its confidential whistleblowing service was set up in November 2011.

The Serious Fraud Office revealed it has only followed up three cases for consideration in a future investigation.

Two of the reports, referred in September 2012 and January 2013, were taken forward as ‘projects’, and one referred in 2012, was taken up as a ‘pre-project’, which both mean the SFO will consider them after further review and research.

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information Request by the Huffington Post UK.

Tory MP Steve Barclay, member of the Public Accounts Committee told the Huffington Post UK: “It is unacceptable that the SFO has followed up as few as 3 cases out a potential 5,500 from its tip-off service. This is letting down those who come forward with information, and also the taxpayer who is funding a body that is failing to perform as it should.

"This is not an isolated example - the SFO has also apologised recently for making massive irregular pay offs to its own staff which it could not justify."

"The idea behind a confidential tip-off line is to target the action of the SFO on the fraudulent use of tax payers’ money. Once again there are now serious questions as to whether the SFO is delivering value for money to the tax payer. "

"The SFO should certainly be looking into its handling procedure for reports of fraudulent activity and should ensure that each tip-off is given serious consideration rather than being dismissed as it seems to have been in recent years.”

The SFO launched its “SFO Confidential” whistleblowing service in November 2011, which allowed people to pass on concerns about complex fraud and corruption on the phone and online.

However, the SFO closed the telephone line on 12 June 2012 as “a disproportionate amount of staff time was being spent dealing with telephone calls”, scaling down its tip-off service to online communications.

The phone line received 1057 calls in total since its start in November 2011 until June 2012. The SFO’s entire ‘Confidential’ whistleblowing service has received 5,582 reports so far since November 2011.

A Serious Fraud Office spokesperson said: “The Serious Fraud Office deals with the very most serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption. The vast majority of fraud investigations are carried out by other organisations."

“SFO Confidential is for people who want to tell the SFO about serious or complex fraud or corruption, including whistleblowers. The SFO decided to close the telephone element of SFO Confidential on 12 June 2012 because a disproportionate amount of staff time was being spent dealing with telephone calls that did not contribute to this aim.

“The Action Fraud helpline remains available for all types of fraud referrals, and SFO Confidential can be contacted by email and post, or through the secure online reporting form.”

The news comes as the Serious Fraud Office admitted it had lost tens of thousands of documents from an investigation into the BAE systems defence firm, after sending it to the wrong person. However, the SFO said 98% of the material has been recovered and none of it related to national security.