Rule-breaking civil servant returns as a paid consultant months after taking retirement

Home Office
Home Office

The Home Office put the integrity of the Government at risk by allowing a senior civil servant to retire before taking up paid consultancy work for the department months later, a watchdog has said.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) said that a failure to get sign-off for Glyn Williams’s appointment at Fortinus Global was an “unambiguous breach of the rules”.

Mr Williams worked as director-general for migration and borders at the Home Office until retiring in December 2021.

However, in April 2022 he took up a job at Fortinus Global, which bills itself as a “specialist global border management consultancy”.

'Cause for concern'

Lord Pickles, chairman of Acoba, said Mr Williams “failed to seek advice” in relation to the work he did with the firm, “which resulted in him working indirectly for the Home Office again”.

When asked by The Telegraph how much the company had been paid for this work, the Home Office refused to say, claiming it was “commercially sensitive”.

In a letter sent to the Cabinet Office, Lord Pickles said that the “failure to seek and await advice in this case was a breach of the Government’s rules” and a “cause for concern”.

According to correspondence released by Acoba, Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office’s top civil servant, said that Mr Williams had “received advice” that an application to the watchdog “would be needed for any new appointments or employment within two years”.

But in an explanation sent to the watchdog, Mr Williams said that he believed that approval was only needed if civil servants “have had any form of official dealings with their prospective employer” and that the rules were aimed at avoiding “the risk that that organisation might gain unfair advantage through access to privileged information”.

He told the watchdog that “as it was clear that my role would not involve sharing privileged information, I did not think I was required to seek approval through Acoba”.

'Risk to the integrity of government'

In a letter sent to the Home Office, Lord Pickles said Mr Williams had subsequently acknowledged that “this was incorrect” and that “he should have sought advice”.

“He added that whilst he did not deliberately seek to avoid compliance with the rules, he regretted not making an application as was required,” said Lord Pickles.

“The rules are a set of principles which exist to protect the integrity of government. This is impossible to do credibly after someone has taken on a role.

“I understand Fortinus Global started working with the Home Office after Mr Williams started working with the firm. Any suspicion around this timing is exactly the kind of risk to the integrity of government that the rules are designed to protect.”

A further letter sent by Mr Rycroft to Lord Pickles revealed that the Home Office “had been exploring ways to make the most of Glyn’s significant experience and expertise in immigration matters post-retirement”.

The letter went on: “As we had been seeking expert consultancy support on immigration systems and policy, we brought in Fortinus to provide a managed service to the Home Office to provide this support.

“The contract with Fortinus does not name any individual required to provide the work, but Glyn has been supplying his expertise to the department through this contract.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We are reviewing the letter from Acoba and will respond in due course.”

When The Telegraph contacted Fortinus Global, a spokesman said: “I refer you to Mr Williams’ statement and have nothing to add.”