The Chief Inspector of Probation, Paul McDowell, is in the middle of a quarrel over a potential conflict of interest which may have a significant effect on the independence of the probation watchdog, which he leads. The row arose following the disclosure that McDowell’s wife is the deputy managing director of Sodexo Justice Services, which has been listed recently by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as the ‘preferred bidder’ for six of the 21 probation contract areas, which are out to tender.
McDowell is also a former chief executive of the charity Nacro, which is the partner organisation with Sodexo, in the six contract areas they have been selected for. We have blogged previously as to the significant concentration of large multinational companies in the list of preferred bidders announced by the MoJ, in contrast to government rhetoric as to the prevelance of voluntary organisations. The preferred bidders list is part of the government’s much-criticised Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which is seeking the privatisation of 70 per cent of the probation service.
Sir Alan Beith, chairman of the parilamentary Justice Select Committee has raised serious concerns about the disclosure and noted that the Secretary of State and Committee need to “consider the implications of the interest issue having become much more significant.”
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For the Guardian article, please see Travis, A. ‘Probation inspector at centre of row over wife’s job at outsourcing firm‘, The Guardian, 31 October 2014.