Surrey crime commissioner Kevin Hurley says police chief responsible for £15m "debacle"

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley

First published in News
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Surrey's former chief constable should be held responsible for nearly £15m pounds of taxpayers’ money being wasted on an IT system - according to the county's police and crime commissioner.

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley has accused then Chief Constable Mark Rowley, now an assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, of presiding over an IT development "debacle" which cost £310,000 a month from 2009 until 2013 when Mr Hurley pulled the plug on it.

His comments come in response to a damning report, published yesterday, into the Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (Siren), which was never operational despite years of development.

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Former Chief Constable Mark Rowley

Auditors concluded the force did not have appropriately skilled staff, cost was poorly controlled, reporting was "rose-tinted" and checks and balances did not always operate.

Mr Hurley said: "The analogy I use is that of the captain of a ship who plots the course and remains responsible.

"In this case, in my view, there is evidence that the then ‘captain’ plotted a course in uncertain conditions without ensuring the ship or crew were capable of reaching their destination.

"This ship (Project SIREN) ran aground and almost £15 million of taxpayers’ money was lost.

"It is my opinion that the then Chief Constable of Surrey Police, Mark Rowley, must take responsibility for the failures of Surrey Police highlighted in today’s report.

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Chief Constable Lynne Owens

"Mr Rowley is no longer employed in Surrey, but if he were I would as PCC be considering how best to hold him to account.

"He is now employed by the Metropolitan Police Service. I will be writing to the Mayor for London Boris Johnson (responsible for policing) and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to take action as they see appropriate."

But in a statement released today Assistant Commissioner Rowley said although he shared "regret and disappointment" with all those leading the project, the auditors did not single out anyone for criticism.

He said that by 2013 collaboration with Sussex Police opened up new communication options not previously available and he said: "In April 2011, a few months before I left the force, having looked at the project in great detail, Surrey Police's auditors reported back positively on Siren to the Police Authority and the Chief Officer Group.

"Now, with the benefit of hindsight, the new auditors, Grant Thornton, have identified that in their view the programme needed more specialist expertise to try to ensure the success of such a programme.

"They may well be right, but these gaps were not obvious to auditors or to the Police Authority at the time."

A Met spokesman said: "The MPS note that the report does not single out any individual for criticism and does not appear to identify any misconduct issues.

"If misconduct allegations are made in relation to any MPS Officer, they will be considered in the normal manner."

This report follows Mr Hurley’s warning that Surrey Police faces a £30m cut to its £207m annual budget over coming years, which puts up to 500 jobs are at risk.

The auditors’ report concluded: "Overall, SIREN was an ambitious project that was beyond the in-house capabilities and experience of the force and authority at the time.

"Despite this, insufficient third party support was bought in to mitigate these factors and ensure the successful delivery of a project of this scale and complexity."

It said there was scrutiny in place but: "This scrutiny was not sufficiently probing or robust, particularly in response to the project status being reported as red for the two years before termination."

Chief Constable Lynne Owens described the Siren project as a "challenging episode" for Surrey Police.

She said: "There was a significant amount of public money spent, albeit over a number of years, on developing the SIREN project, which ultimately wasn’t implemented. This is of course a matter of regret for us.

"The report makes clear that external circumstances changed significantly between when the SIREN project started to when it was stopped."

She said problems that arose in their handling of the projects were not "endemic" and they had a proven record of delivering change.

But she said: "We are not complacent and are continually improving how we deliver and govern change to ensure that spend is prioritised on supporting operational policing."

Niche RMS has been successfully installed to replaced Siren as the force’s new crime, case and custody ICT system.

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