Assets Recovery Agency: fiftieth report of session 2006-07, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

The Assets Recovery Agency (the Agency) was set up in 2003 to recover assets from criminals using new and unique powers of civil recovery as well as criminal confiscation and taxation. It was also tasked with the training, accreditation and monitoring of financial investigators. The Agency is to be disbanded in 2008. It was set up with insufficient preparatory work. There was no business case setting out the expectations for the Agency, resulting in unachievable delivery aims. It is reliant on cases being referred to it by other authorities, but only 707 cases have been referred from 129 out of 696 potential referral partners. The Agency did not develop effective work processes: it failed to keep a comprehensive database of cases referred to it; it did not invest in a time-recording system to manage and monitor staff time and the cost of cases; and it failed to put in place processes to enable management to monitor the progression of cases effectively. Receivers' fees accounted for almost a quarter of the budget but fixed price contracts were not introduced until April 2006. The Agency's office is in central London, heavily reliant on temporary staff, and with high levels of staff turnover. The Agency had recovered assets amounting to only £23 million by December 2006 against expenditure of £65 million, and it has not met its target of becoming self-financing by 2005-06. Asset recovery has been slow because in most cases the full value of the assets was pursued through the courts rather than seeking settlement for a proportion of the assets. The Agency has not been adequately monitoring the accreditation of trained financial investigators. Of the 4,500 financial investigators trained at almost £700 per place, only 1,400 of those were active in the role by summer 2006.

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