Would any PO get paid 100% salary for a 70% role? I think not.
A reader has kindly supplied a copy of their letter to Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Justice Affairs Committee:-
I am writing to you in your capacity as Chairman of the Justice Select Committee to highlight what could be a conflict of interest with regards to Paul McDowell. You will notice that I have also copied in Sadiq Khan who I feel has a vested interest in the matter. At this stage I must declare that I am a currently employed as a Probation Officer.
Mr McDowell is the incumbent HM Chief Inspector of Probation and he is married to Janine McDowell who currently works for Sodexo Justice services. Until recently, Mr McDowell was the former Chief Executive of Nacro. In partnership, both Sodexo and Nacro have won six of the twenty one contracts to manage the newly formed Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC's).
Mr McDowell went on record stating that he has declared his previous roles and any conflict of interest to Chris Grayling MP when he applied for the role. My concern is that Mr Grayling has not acted in the best interests of the electorate and is at times acting surreptitiously; this not being an act I would correlate with his current position. I qualify this statement by highlighting his recent actions to the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) who, when seeking to bring a judicial review against his actions in forming the CRC's, were asked by Mr Grayling for additional time to prepare evidence requested by NAPO, and whilst doing so appeared to use this time to announce the prepared bidders for the CRC's. To date, I still have no confirmation that he provided the requested information that he asked for time to collate the evidence they requested. Mr Grayling has also stated (in Hansard) that Probation Officers were not allocated to either the National Probation Service or the CRC by their names being picked out of a hat. We now know this to be untrue.
Whilst Mr McDowell's actions may be benign, I would draw your attention to a statement made by Simon Hughes on Today Programme on Thursday 30th October. Mr Hughes stated that the independent inspector (Paul McDowell) had not warned of any risks [with regards to the break up of the Probation Service]. This is somewhat pertinent given that Mr McDowell's report is not due to be publish until December 2014; one would be right to ask if the report has already been written, and by whom given the assertions made by Mr Hughes
Given the links between Mr and Mrs McDowell, the fact that the Justice Secretary was aware but did not inform yourself or indeed your committee and the claims made by Mr Hughes that there are no problems at present, despite the lack of any official report and growing evidence to the contrary, I would ask that, if possible and as a matter of urgency, you and your committee look into this matter further to ensure that no extralegal acts have taken place, and the public, who will be the ones affected by this matter, can be assured that all parties have acted in their interests and without prejudice. I fear that those who did not win any bids may also lodge legal challenges due to possible impropriety, this potentially impacting on the public purse
Furthermore, should you have the time, I would request that you view this blog, ran and contributed to by serving Probation Officers. They remain anonymous to prevent any repercussions due to the notification that Probation Officers are prevented from doing or saying anything which would undermine the position of the Secretary of State.
The matter of the '70% Inspector' is gaining considerable attention, such as the following blog that's been brought to my notice:-
At the point at which Mr McDowell was being considered for his new job by the JSC and Mr Grayling, one of the issues that may have been shared with Mr Grayling but was certainly not known by the JSC was the existence of Mrs McDowell and her work. Janine McDowell works for a private sector company, used to winning Government contracts called Sodexo, she is the deputy Managing Director of Sodexo Justice Services and that company partnered with NACRO in its bids and so for as long as Mrs McDowell remains in her post, we cannot reasonably ask Mr McDowell to inspect these 6 CRCs. That much is clear, because he has explained how he excluded himself from negotiations between Sodexo and NACRO because he knew there was a conflict of interest.
However Mr McDowells judgement may be affected on other matters. On Thursday Simon Hughes MP, Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties was interviewed on the Radio 4 Today programme. He was challenged that the transition of Probation handing over 70% of its work to 21 CRCs was in chaos. I recall Hughes defending the situation and pointing out “The independent inspector of probation has alerted us to no concerns that the system isn’t moving across.” The integrity of Mr McDowell is something none of us can judge, however I am Trustee of a charity that is a minnow compared to NACRO and we were not formally part of any bids, although listed as a delivery partner on some of those in one region that unfortunately did not succeed. I have friends who work for another Charity who are perhaps more like NACRO in scope and part of several CRCs across the country. My knowledge of this process is superficial, but I am interested in how it has been progressing. If I was put on the spot like Hughes was last week, I hope I would have been honest enough to admit with integrity that indeed there are many challenges in what has been a poorly thought through, and at times appallingly executed process. However caring for ex-offenders is too important to be allowed to fail. Mr Hughes did not say that and with the benefit of hindsight knowing that he IOP was unlikely to throw 71% of the bathwater out with 29% of the baby makes his comments at best needing to be tested a bit further.
We learn via twitter this afternoon:-
Jenny Chapman MP is submitting urgent notice question TODAY for Minister of Justice to come to Chamber of House of Commons and answer. Depends on Speaker allowing it - so I think it will be touch and go - justifying it as an emergency!
Unfortunately Urgent Question request was declined on this occasionMy feeling is that this matter is not going away......
It hasn't. Alan Travis in the Guardian tonight:-
Labour demands inquiry into chief probation inspector
Labour has demanded an immediate inquiry into allegations of a conflict of interest involving the chief inspector of probation.The Guardian reported on Saturday that Paul McDowell faced questions after Sodexo Justice Services, where his wife is deputy managing director, was named as preferred bidder for six out of 21 regional contracts to take over parts of the probation service in England and Wales next year.
The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, has written to the Commons justice select committee asking them to summon McDowell and the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, to question them about McDowell’s suitability for the watchdog role.Khan said the Guardian’s disclosure was “of such importance that you [should] consider an immediate inquiry into any conflicts of interest, and the process that led to the appointment of the chief inspector of probation.”
Khan said he was alarmed at reports that the justice ministry failed to mention the link to Sodexo before the committee endorsed McDowell after a scrutiny hearing last autumn.“It is possible that had the justice select committee been made aware of the full facts, the pre-appointment scrutiny might have reached a different conclusion. I therefore feel strongly that the secretary of state should also be summoned to appear before your committee to fully explain the process,” he wrote to the committee chairman, Sir Alan Beith.