Ministry of Justice launches probe into former commercial staff
"We take all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously," says justice minister Andrew Selous
The Ministry of Justice has begun an investigation into claims that a number of its former commercial staff have emphasised their links to government while seeking private sector work.
The Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend that several senior MoJ officials who had been part of the now-disbanded Just Solutions International team – set up to sell British criminal justice advice to governments around the world, including Saudi Arabia – are now working for a private consultancy called TDPi.
The consultancy's website promises "a fresh approach to solution development in international justice and correctional services", and its team includes director Tony Challinor, who stepped down as head of commercial development for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in December.
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In a statement to MPs published on Monday, justice minister Andrew Selous said: "Yesterday the press reported allegations that former employees of the Ministry of Justice have behaved improperly and that knowledge they may have acquired while working for the department has been used to gain a competitive advantage.
"We take all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously. We have launched an immediate investigation to ascertain the facts, which the Cabinet Office's Proprietary and Ethics team will support."
Under rules governing post-Whitehall business appointments, senior civil servants "are expected to refrain from drawing on any privileged information which was available to them when in office", with appointments subject to clearance by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.
Selous added: "The rules around former civil servants taking up employment in the private sector are made very clear when they leave. Under no circumstance should they exploit privileged access to government contracts or sensitive information which could be used to influence the outcome of commercial competitions."
Selous said the Ministry of Justice had, "over the last six months", taken steps to improve its commercial capability, "more than doubling the senior commercial experts monitoring work with the private sector".
But there was "still more to do", he added, and promised to update MPs with the findings of the joint investigation once it had been completed.
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