Recruitment and retention are among the biggest issues facing the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as the agency gets set for a new director to take the reins.
The SFO on Tuesday published its annual report for 2022-23, in which outgoing Director Lisa Osofsky balanced praise for the agency’s work against acknowledgement of the areas improvement is needed. Osofsky will leave the SFO in September, when Nick Ephgrave, a former assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, will take over.
Ephgrave already has a tall task ahead of him in overhauling the SFO’s culture and performance after a pair of independent reviews completed last year shined a spotlight on deficiencies at the agency that led to significant errors in high-profile cases against Unaoil and Serco.
Osofsky, in her statement, said the SFO has delivered against all 29 recommendations included in the reviews but that “some recommendations require further or ongoing work.”
“We … remain committed to full and ongoing implementation as part of our comprehensive change program,” she said.
The No. 1 priority at the agency in the year ahead will be “redoubling efforts to permanently recruit and train the people we need,” Osofsky said. She said the agency has used a mixture of temporary staff and counsel to combat its high vacancy rates but that continuing to do so is unsustainable. She acknowledged pay as a detriment to retention efforts.
Osofsky praised the agency for “punch[ing] way above its weight” regarding the nine prosecutions it brought before the courts and conviction of eight business executives it secured during the year. The SFO also secured the U.K.’s largest penalty for a corporate criminal conviction—280 million pounds (U.S. $360 million)—as part of its case against Glencore Energy UK.
On the negative side, the agency in March abandoned its prosecution of G4S after nearly a decade because it couldn’t offer evidence in the case.
“We had faced significant challenges as we moved towards the opening of trial,” Osofsky said. “We are now committed to learning from this.”