Govt lambasts OFT over costs hike and poor rate of attrition

A panel of Government MPs has slammed the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for failing to hold on to its best lawyers and for being inefficient with public money.

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts grilled OFT chief executive John Fingleton during a recent public questioning session.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh stormed: “Your costs have increased by 70 per cent over the past five years. You have been given strengthened powers, but you do not have a great deal to show for it, Mr Fingleton.”

During the session, Fingleton was forced to defend a 20 per cent staff turnover during 2004-05 and 16 per cent during the current financial year.

“Our turnover figures may appear high,” Fingleton said. “A revolving door is a typical feature of agencies such as ours internationally.”

The chairman of the parliamentary committee, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, criticised the regulator for its high turnover and questioned its ability to retain staff, including its lawyers.

“Do you think you can hold your own against well-resourced companies and law firms, especially as some of your best people appear to be leaving on a regular basis to join them?” Leigh queried.

The committee also heard that the OFT had seen its costs increase by 70 per cent since 2000-01.

Leigh said that, although it was difficult to determine whether the OFT provided value for money, the regulator had nevertheless failed to utilise new powers to enforce competition.