Former Home Office director Mary Calam takes up new job with McKinsey

Written by Jonathan Owen on 22 June 2016 in News

Watchdog ACOBA approves new job for Mary Calam, provided she does not use any “privileged information” from her time in the civil service

Mary Calam, recently-departed director general of the crime and policing group at the Home Office, has taken up a job at McKinsey and Company, a company she dealt with as a senior civil servant, it has emerged.

Correspondence released by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) this week (June 20) revealed that Calam is now working as a “senior expert” at McKinsey and Company. 

It said her role could see the former civil servant work on projects “providing expertise and advice to teams serving on UK governments in areas of crime, policing, and national security".

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It added: “She may also work directly with teams in the UK, serving clients in the private sector and the public sector on public administration issues.”

The letter from ACOBA to Paula Leach, HR director at the Home Office, stated: “In considering the application, the committee took into account that while Ms Calam has had some official dealings with McKinsey and other companies in the sector, there has been no commercial element and she has not been involved in any decisions affecting them.”

However, it noted that the Home Office had “no reservations about the propriety of this appointment".

Approval has been given by ACOBA, subject to conditions that Calam not use any “privileged information” from her time in the civil service. 

For the next two years, she will not be allowed to lobby the government on behalf of her new employers, or using her “Whitehall contacts to influence policy or secure business on behalf of McKinsey and Company, its subsidiaries or clients".

And Calam will have to wait for a year until she can give advice on any bids or contracts relating to the Home Office, on “McKinsey client matters upon which she has been directly involved while in Crown service,” or to foreign governments devising policies regarding crime, policing or national security.

New ACOBA rules

ACOBA recently tweaked its advice to former ministers and officials seeking to work in the commercial sector, warning them not not to exploit their old contacts, or allow their new colleagues to do so, once in a new job.

Fresh guidance drawn up by the watchdog, revealed in newly-published minutes of ACOBA's February board meeting, says that individuals who leave public service "should not make use, directly or indirectly, of his or her Whitehall contacts to influence policy or secure business for any organisations to which he or she moved.”

It will also “preclude other people working for an organisation from taking advantage of the former minister or official’s privileged access."

According to ACOBA, the move was prompted by the "potential for public concern that some organisations might be given an unfair advantage over others as a result of the contacts of the former minister or crown servants they employed".

As a result, ACOBA will "supplement the wording of the lobbying ban in all cases where a former minister or Crown servant was seeking to take up employment in the sector which they were involved with while in office".

It is also taking a tougher line on former politicians and civil servants who only make an application to ACOBA after they have taken up a new job. 

ACOBA will now only consider a retrospective application "where it was clear in the particular case that the delay had not been the fault of the applicant".

The body will also name and shame those who do not approach it in advance of taking up new roles outside government, in order to "encourage others to follow the correct process" and ensure that "any improper appointment would not pass without comment".

ACOBA chair Baroness Browning told MPs earlier this year that her organisation needed to do more to combat "the public’s perception of the revolving door situation" in which public servants move into private sector roles after leaving office.

But she rejected a suggestion by Labour's Paul Flynn that ACOBA was "a pussycat without teeth or claws", saying the watchdog was "given a remit with a set of rules that are drawn up by the government".

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Jonathan Owen
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