Advisory Committee on Business Appointments beefs up disclosure requirements for top-level departures from government

Watchdog seeks additional information on commercial sector links

By Jim Dunton

08 Jan 2016

The watchdog created to monitor the propriety of senior civil servants taking on roles outside of government has increased the level of information it requires from those departing government.

Permanent secretaries, director-general level officers, and ministers are all required to seek advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) on the “suitability” of any new post they take up within two years of leaving their post.

From this week, ACOBA has begun seeking extra details of former ministers’ relationship with the companies they propose to work for - and the wider sector in which their businesses operate, including rival companies.

They are required to give details of meetings with their proposed employers that took place within the previous two years, including speeches and contact at stakeholder events. Policy and regulatory work that would have affected the employer must also be disclosed. Similar questions relating to competitors must also be answered.

Former ministers are now also required to state whether they continue to advise or represent the government in any capacity since they formally left office, in a bid to identify whether an applicant has a sector “tsar” or envoy role.

A spokeswoman for ACOBA told Civil Service World that the updated requirements came in the wake of the watchdog’s most recent annual report.

In that, ACOBA chair Baroness Angela Browning said the panel was keen to “enhance” the data available to guide its decisions and ensure it was able to “systematically take into account” any capacity in which applicants could be seen as representing the government.

In addition to its updated declaration form for former ministers, ACOBA this week published details of the latest senior civil servant moves it had deemed acceptable.

Among them was approval for former director general of the National Crime Agency Keith Bristow to set up a consultancy providing advice to international police agency Interpol, subject to conditions.

Papers also revealed that ACOBA approved four business appointments and seven pieces of consultancy work for Tera Allas, who left her role as director general for strategic advice at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in January 2014.

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