Chair Andrew Flanagan clings to power at Police regulator. AMID further calls to quit, the Chair of the embattled Scottish Police Authority (SPA) grimly remains in office and at the centre of a crisis which has eroded public confidence in the Police watchdog to the point only a clean sweep of the board may begin to repair significant reputational damage to the regulator of Police Scotland.
Facing further criticism from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing late last week, Andrew Flanagan again refused to stand down from his £70K position as Chair of the SPA.
According to his declarations on the SPA website, Andrew Flanagan also holds positions on the Civil Service Commission, NHS Business Services Authority, London-based NEL Commissioning Support Unit, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, positions he earns up to £75,000 a year in addition to his £70K salary as SPA Chair.
Flanagan’s decision to remain in office comes after members of Holyrood’s Justice Committee said in a report they had “serious concerns”in the current SPA Board – which has responsibility for oversight and spending of the £1.1 billion Police Scotland budget.
The Justice Committee expressed “very serious concerns about the standards of governance” at the body and said it “does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the board”.
The report was issued after the Justice Committee held an evidence session with SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan & CEO John Foley after hearings at the Scottish Parliament's Public Audit Committee heard details of Andrew Flanagan’s treatment of Moi Ali - a former SPA board member who spoke up over concerns about the lack of transparency & accountability at the Police Watchdog.
At an earlier meeting of the PAPLS Committee Moi Ali accused Flanagan of bullying, which led to Ms Ali’s resignation from the Police regulator after she publicly objected to plans to hold meetings in private and arrangements over the publication of board papers prior to meetings.
During the evidence session at the Justice Committee, SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan told MSPs he had issued a written apology to Ali on Tuesday of that week, however, evidence has since emerged the apology was emailed to Ms Ali less than two hours before Flanagan was to appear before MSPs to answer concerns about harassment and transparency.
The Justice Committee have not yet commented on whether they plan to quiz Mr Flanagan further on his contradictory claims in relation to his communications with Moi Ali.
While Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has remained conspicuously silent in the crisis at the SPA, Matheson has quietly requested an inspection of transparency and accountability issues at the organisation be brought forward by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).
The results are expected in June, however Justice Committee member Mary Fee MSP (Scottish Labour) branded Flanagan’s testimony to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing “frankly inadequate”, adding: “We do not have confidence in his leadership.”
The report released by the Justice Committee says Flanagan’s repeated use of the phrase “I have to accept” when discussing his treatment of Moi Ali - does not reassure the committee that he has a “real belief and understanding” that the actions he took and “repeatedly defended were wrong”.
Speaking to the BBC, Mary Fee MSP - Convener of the Justice sub-Committee on Policing - said: “Though he was apologetic, we are not confident he accepts he was wrong.
“This issue remains unresolved. We will continue working with the Scottish Police Authority, and other justice stakeholders, until we are confident the governance of the SPA is significantly improved.”
Also speaking to the media, former Police officer & Justice Committee member John Finnie – also the Justice spokesperson for the Greens, said: “Andrew Flanagan said nothing at his most recent appearance in front of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing which led me to believe that he has learned the important lessons necessary for him to lead the SPA.
“Mr Flanagan’s half-hearted apology, emailing Moi Ali around an hour before his appearance at the sub-committee, epitomises his approach to this whole sorry saga – looking out for his own self-interest rather than that of the Scottish Police Authority.
“In order to effectively chair an important public body it is vital that you hold the confidence of Parliament. It is clear from the views expressed by both the Public Audit Committee and today by the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing that Mr Flanagan lacks that confidence.
“He certainly does not hold my confidence.
“This ongoing situation continues to overshadow the vital work of the SPA and must be resolved sooner rather than later. I would ask Mr Flanagan to seriously reflect on his position.”
Giving evidence to the sub-committee, Flanagan was asked if he accepted there had been “reputational damage to SPA that it may not recover from”.
He replied: “I think we can recover from it, I think there has been some damage there. I think my apology to Moi is a start of that process, it is not the end of the process.
Responding to the Justice Committee’s criticisms of the SPA and their report SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan said: "As I have already done with the views of other parliamentarians, I and the SPA Board will consider this report very carefully over the coming days and reflect on its contents.
"As I indicated in my evidence to the Committee, I have publicly acknowledged recent mistakes without caveat or qualification. I also believe that in my time in office I have brought much improvement and clarity to the strategy, governance, sustainability, and relationships within policing.”
"I remain focussed on building a broad consensus around my continuing leadership of the SPA, and my contribution to a stable and collaborative leadership within policing as a whole.”
"Today, and in recognition of recent areas of contention, the SPA has backed my recommended changes to governance that will increase both the transparency of our meetings and the accessibility of information.”
"This will begin to address the concerns of stakeholders, and the inspection report of HMICS will provide a further opportunity to build on that.”
"I also look forward to further developing and broadening the Board's approach with the appointment today of Nicola Marchant as the first Deputy Chair."
It has since been reported in the Herald newspaper SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan did not share a crucial report on forensics with all his board members.
The SPA has control of forensic services - including DNA, drug analysis and scene examination - and Mr Penman sent the chair a “professional advice note” (PAN) on the subject.
The document flagged up possible reforms on a part of the Police service that has had to make efficiency savings.
Speaking to the Herald, a spokesman for HMICS said of the advice note: “HMICS received a letter on 31 October 2016, from the [SPA] Chair acknowledging the final version and confirming that it had been shared with all board members.”
The Herald further reported: “However, asked yesterday to confirm that Mr Flanagan had shared the advice note with all board members, a spokesman for the SPA said:
"The SPA members received briefing from their officers last August in which one of the options set out in respect of forensic services clearly reflected the HMICS advice note. The paper provided to members made clear that background papers available to them included the independent analysis and advice by HMICS in relation to forensic services.”
A senior policing source said it was a “fair assumption” that the advice note was not given to all board members at the time.”
Report from the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing: Justice Sub Committee on Policing Report on Governance of the Scottish Police Authority
1. The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing held an evidence session on the governance of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on 18 May 2017.
2. It took evidence from Andrew Flanagan, Chair, and John Foley, Chief Executive of the Scottish Police Authority.
3. This was in response to the letter from the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice outlining its "very serious concerns about the standards of governance at the SPA”, following its recent evidence sessions^
4. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to bring forward aspects of his intended statutory inspection into the state, efficiency and effectiveness of the Scottish Police Authority scheduled for 2017/18. The Cabinet Secretary has asked HMICS focus on transparency and accountability issues.]
5. Accordingly, HMICS is currently undertaking a Thematic Inspection of the Scottish Police Authority - Phase 1 Review of Openness and Transparency and is to report to the Scottish Parliament on 22 June 2017. The terms of reference are as follows:
The overall aim of this review will be to assess the openness and transparency in the way that the Scottish Police Authority conducts its business. It will specifically examine:
(i) the Authority’s decision on holding meetings in private and the publication of meeting papers; and also assess
(ii) the Authority’s compliance with relevant legislation, guidance and standing orders and the awareness and understanding of the Chair, Board members and SPA officers of these.
6. This report outlines the views of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing on the evidence heard at its meetings of 20 April, when representatives of Unison, the Scottish Police Federation and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents provided evidence, and of 18 May, with the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA.
7. The 18 May evidence session focussed on the following decisions:
• to hold committee meetings in private;
• to not circulate to the SPA board members the letter from HMICS raising concerns about holding committee meetings in private; and
• the Chair’s letter to Moi Ali of 19 December, in response to her dissenting to meetings being held in private.
8. The Sub-Committee considered the decisions taken by the Chair and Chief Executive, the actions they took (or did not take) as a result of those decisions, and the impact on the effective governance and reputation of the SPA.
9. The Sub-Committee also considered the impact of the proposed actions to be taken going forward on the SPA's governance, transparency and reputation.
10. The Sub-Committee shares the very serious concerns about the standards of governance at the SPA raised by the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee and thanks it for its scrutiny of the governance of the Scottish Police Authority.
11. The Sub-Committee agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, copied to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), outlining its views. The letter is attached at Annexe A of this report.
Letter from the Justice Sub Committee on Policing to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson:
Dear Michael: The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing held an evidence session on 18 May 2017 on governance of the Sottish Police Authority. This was to provide an opportunity for the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA to address serious governance concerns raised by the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee in its recent letter to you.
The Sub-Committee also took evidence from Unison, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) on 20 April, when SPA governance issues were raised.
The Sub-Committee appreciates that HMICS is currently undertaking an urgent review of the openness and transparency of the SPA and that you are to appraise the performance of the Chair of the SPA. This letter is to inform both.
Openness, transparency and accountability
The Sub-Committee agrees with your assessment that the SPA "needs to ensure that the processes and mechanisms that it has in place are open and transparent’’^"
Many of the issues surrounding the openness, transparency and accountability of the SPA’s governance seem to have been created by the implementation of two of the recommendations in Andrew Flanagan’s Review of Governance, which was published in March 2016. These were that committees should be seen as working groups (recommendation 15) and therefore that their meetings should be held in private (recommendation 16).
In his letter to Andrew Flanagan of 9 December 2016, Derek Penman cautioned that the proposal for committees to meet in private might impact negatively on the openness, transparency and legitimacy of the SPA, as well as public confidence in its governance. Despite this, the decision was made for committees to meet in private.
In a previous evidence session, the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing heard that those representing police staff, officers and superintendents felt that this decision excluded them from participating in the decision-making process.
Craig Suttie of the ASPS told the Sub-Committee that superintendents "had concerns when the governance review came out”, whilst Calum Steele of the SPF said that holding private committee meetings "undermines the SPA’s legitimacy”.
In response to questions on engagement with the unions and staff associations Mr Flanagan acknowledged that he was aware that stakeholders were unhappy, but held the view that the level of engagement was sufficient, saying that "In the committee structure that has been set up, people can come and give evidence ... the SPF and other staff associations and unions can come to those meetings”.
The proposal that committees are to meet in public and to publish papers well in advance of meetings is a move in the right direction. This is good practice and it is difficult to comprehend why this approach was not recommended in the governance review.
There is a need for some items to be taken in private, and the Sub-Committee appreciates Mr Flanagan’s assurance that respectful open debate on whether items should be taken in private will be encouraged going forward.
Private committee meetings, issuing papers at the last minute, and reducing input from key stakeholders has damaged the relationship between the SPA and police staff, officers and superintendents. It has also raised questions within the police service and externally about the SPA's accountability, transparency and legitimacy.
Although there is now a proposal for committees to meet in public, Mr Flanagan suggested that this was due to improvements in the information that is submitted by Police Scotland,rather than being in response to the impact private meetings have had on key relationships and the SPA's reputation. It is essential to repair both.
As part of his review, HMICS is to "engage directly with the key stakeholders, including police staff associations and members of the media and others who have a specific interest in the policing of Scotland and who may wish access to SPA meetings and papers”.
The Sub-Committee would refer HMICS to its evidence session on 20 April with Unison, the SPF and ASPS and, in light of recent media reports, respectfully request that Mr Penman engage with COSLA during his review of openness and transparency.
Correspondence from HMICS
It is clear that Derek Penman’s letter of 9 December 2016 to the Chair, copied to the Chief Executive, was time critical. In it Mr Penman raises a number of concerns about the Corporate Governance Framework, which was to be agreed at the following week’s SPA board meeting. Whilst Mr Flanagan has now acknowledged that this correspondence should have been circulated as a matter of course, and has committed to doing so in future, the Sub-Committee explored the reasons for the 9 December letter not being circulated.
The Sub-Committee heard that there were practical issues which contributed to Mr Penman’s letter not being circulated immediately. The Chief Executive was out of the country, with the letter apparently not being brought to his attention during or after his leave period. The Chair received the letter "late on Friday” and was not undertaking SPA duties again prior to the board meeting the following week.
However, Mr Flanagan stated that, in his view, there had been no need to circulate Mr Penman’s letter, telling the Sub-Committee that "I felt that his letter captured views that had already been expressed rather than injecting new ones”.
Mr Penman explained to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee on 11 May that his letter: "contained a level of detail that I would not have had the opportunity to explain in conversations on the margins with members”
Despite this Mr Foley told the Sub-Committee on 18 May that "It is not the case that his [Derek Penman’s] views were not known”
The letter was discussed at the pre-meeting and was not circulated before, during or at any time after the SPA board meeting. Board members and key stakeholders only saw the content of the letter, or in some cases became aware it, once it appeared in media reports some months later.
At the Sub-Committee meeting of 20 April 2017 Drew Livingstone stated that Unison was particularly concerned about not being made aware of the HMICS letter until recently, saying that: "there has been a reluctance on the part of the organisation to listen to opinions that might come across as being slightly dissenting”
Not circulating the HMICS letter to Board Members, as Her Majesty’s Inspector would have expected, was, in the Sub-Committee’s view, a serious error of judgement.
HMICS has a statutory role to look into the ‘state, effectiveness and efficiency’ of the SPA and it should provide HMICS with "such assistance and co-operation as we may require to enable us to carry out our functions”.
The Sub-Committee asks that you consider whether the Chair demonstrates sufficient understanding of the relationship between the SPA and HMICS and whether, in this instance, the required level of co-operation was provided to HMICS.
The operation of the SPA board
The On Board guidance states that "The Chair has an important role to play in ensuring that all Board members are enabled and encouraged to contribute to Board discussions”. Building and maintaining effective working relationships with SPA board members is an essential role of the Chair.
The Sub-Committee considered whether the Chair’s response to Moi Ali’s dissension at the board meeting in December, his interpretation of the On Board guidance and his communication style, enables and encourages members to contribute fully at SPA board meetings.
Treatment of Moi Ali
The Sub-Committee agrees with Mr Flanagan’s view that the tone, content and timing of his letter to Moi Ali in December was a misjudgement on his part and that the manner in which she raised concerns about transparency and perception at the SPA board meeting in December were consistent with her role as a Board member.
This issue has been on-going for almost 6 months and has been deeply damaging to the reputation of the SPA. It is therefore regrettable that Mr Flanagan did not come to this view initially, or before now, and that he did not seek to resolve this matter in person with Moi Ali before she felt it necessary to resign.
Mr Flanagan wrote to Moi Ali on two separate occasions, almost two months apart, but it seems that he did not find an opportunity to speak directly to Moi Ali to seek to resolve the issue and to repair the relationship.
The Sub-Committee notes that Mr Flanagan wrote a personal letter of apology to Ms Ali but that it was only written two days before the Sub-Committee’s evidence session and emailed on the day of the session.
Mr Flanagan told the Sub-Committee that "The fundamental issue at the board meeting was that her [Moi Ali’s] decision to dissent was a surprise to me—that was the main frustration”
It remains Mr Flanagan’s view that he should be made aware before a board meeting if a member is likely to dissent in public, so that he was "prepared for that when the board meeting took place”.
This expectation is out of step with what is required of board members in the On Board guidance. Whilst this approach might be desirable for a Chair it does not enable the SPA board members to form a view at board meetings and could inhibit them from dissenting from a decision if they had not previously informed the Chair that they intended to do so. It has led to criticism that decisions are made before SPA board meetings and then ‘played out’ in public. There is an important distinction between a united board and an effective board. It is not always one and the same.
Relationship with SPA board members
The Sub-Committee heard that other SPA board members had only recently commented on the Chair’s treatment of Moi Ali, describing it to him as "a bit hasty and a bit heavy handed”.
The three SPA board members who gave evidence to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee on 11 May, have only recently committed to asking the Chair why the HMICS letter was not circulated. They confirmed in evidence that they had not done so before now, despite the letter being in the public domain for a number of weeks.
It appears that on both these issues, despite having concerns about the Chair’s actions, significantly, SPA board members were reticent about speaking directly to Mr Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan told the Sub-Committee that the SPA board is to appoint a Deputy Chair. He indicated that one of the advantages of this appointment was that this person could meet with members of the Board who might feel constrained in raising an issue of concern directly with the Chair.
The Sub-Committee would be deeply concerned if Board members felt constrained in speaking to the Chair and, if that were the case, would expect the Chair to rectify that position as a matter of urgency.
The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing agrees with the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s assessment that it is essential that the public and stakeholders be reassured that the SPA is performing to an appropriate standard.
Unfortunately Mr Flanagan’s repeated use of the phrase "I have to accept” did not reassure the Sub-Committee that he has a real belief and understanding that the actions that he took in relation to Moi Ali and in not circulating the HMICS letter, and repeatedly defended, were wrong.
There will be many difficult decisions for the SPA board to take going forward. It is essential that as many of these as possible are taken in public and informed by stakeholders. Openness, inclusiveness and transparency will strengthen the decision making process and the accountability of the SPA. Given the evidence that it has heard, the Sub-Committee does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the Board.
HMICS is currently undertaking a review of the openness and transparency of the SPA.
The Sub-Committee asks HMICS to consider the evidence it has taken and the contents of this report as part of that review. Mr Flanagan has committed to write to the Sub Committee with a response to HMICS’ review at the earliest opportunity.
TRANSPARENCY FIRST: Former Board member Moi Ali spoke out on transparency concerns at Police Watchdog:
A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.
More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:
Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.
Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.
UNFIT AUTHORITY: - Crisis continues at Scottish Police Authority after Board members criticise MSPs scrutiny of Cop Quango:
SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan’s decision to stay in the lead role at the now discredited Scottish Police Authority comes after one of it’s Board members – Graham Houston – launched a blistering attack on open hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s PAPLS Committee' – after it’s members quizzed the Chair & CEO of the SPA, along with Scottish Government Civil Servants at an earlier meeting of 20 April 2017.
Critisising MSPs scrutiny of the Scottish Police Authority, Board member Graham Houston said: “I also think as an example of good governance I think the treatment of my fellow board members by an audit and scrutiny committee was frankly appalling and I think if that is an example of what is expected of good scrutiny it leaves a lot to be desired. And I suggest that the members of that committee look to themselves about setting an example and also look to the guidance on board about how they conduct themselves in doing that.”
Mr Houston then attacked the media, accusing the press of abusing the ‘openness’ of the SPA and concludes by stating “I think that what will transpire is that probably we are one of the most open public authorities in Scotland.”
The SPA’s statement on the outcome of the meeting claimed it had strengthened the transparency and accessibility of its governance arrangements by making a number of revisions to Board and committee meetings and publication of papers.
The changes decided at the meeting, which will come in to effect from 1 June 2017 include:
SPA committee meetings held in public, with items taken in private only when necessary and with a clear articulation of the reason.
The publication of agendas for all public Board and committee meetings will be available on the SPA website 7 days in advance of meetings.
The publication of papers for all public Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (under embargo) 3-working days in advance.
The publication of agendas for closed Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (redacted if necessary) and a summary of the business conducted will be reported to the next public Board meeting.
The public will also have the opportunity to pose questions about policing matters to the SPA Board in advance of meetings.
In addition, the SPA Board has established a new Deputy Chair role. Nicola Marchant has been unanimously appointed to that position with immediate effect.
Full details of the changes and next steps agreed by the Board are outlined in the following paper: http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/400419/governance
Houston’s criticism of the refers to the following hearing, in which evidence revealed to MSPs portrayed the Scottish Police Authority as a haven of secrecy, run in the style of a “kremlin” operation – according to former Cabinet Secretary & PAPLS member Alex Neil MSP (SNP):
A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’
A further appearance of current and former board members of the Scottish Police Authority before Holyrood’s PAPLS Committee on the 11th May - established evidence in relation to a sequence of alarming events at the SPA - giving MSPs significant cause for concern of how the SPA Chair was in effect, personally running the Police watchdog as a “secret society”.
A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog
The hearing also established not one board member of the now discredited Police Watchdog backed former board member Moi Ali – who was forced to resign from the SPA after she bravely raised issues of transparency and accountability during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in December 2016.
Then, at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing, Andrew Flanagan was asked by MSPs several times to consider his position as SPA Chair – yet Flanagan refused each call to stand down and allow the Scottish Police Authority to move on from the current crisis.
A more detailed report on the 18th May 2017 hearing of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing can be found here: AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog
Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority - Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator