Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 14:29 UK

Security body 'overspent by 17m'

The authority licenses bouncers, bodyguards and shop security guards

A government body which licenses bouncers and other security workers has overspent by more than 17m, the National Audit Office has said.

The Security Industry Authority is also accused of failing to keep track of who exactly is working in the sector.

Last year, it emerged that the organisation had wrongly given licences to more than 6,600 illegal immigrants.

Chief executive Mike Wilson said the SIA had begun to implement recommendations made by the NAO.

The NAO said the SIA must raise its game before it begins licensing staff for the 2012 Olympics.

The SIA authorises pub and nightclub bouncers, store security guards, CCTV operators and wheel clamping companies. It is also responsible for those employed in sensitive security posts such as bodyguards.

The security industry has been subject to suspicion and even criminality in the past
Tim Burr, National Audit Office

The NAO did praise the SIA for achieving widespread compliance with its code of conduct, but it said IT failures and mismanagement had led to problems.

It said a new computer system was delayed, leaving staff unable to process new licence applications for six weeks and costing more than 1m. It also raised concerns about a "significant staff turnover" and "a number of vacant posts" at the SIA, and said that at times those in charge were not even sure how many firms were actually part of the industry.

The NAO also criticised the Home Office for underestimating the cost of running the authority.

Tim Burr, head of the NAO, said: "The security industry has been subject to suspicion and even criminality in the past and the Security Industry Authority has done well to set up a licensing system which has secured a high level of compliance.


"Poor cost forecasting and ineffective management of the licensing scheme have, however, resulted in the SIA spending over 17m more than planned.

"The authority needs to improve the quality of its forecasting and its management of the scheme so that it is better equipped for dealing with future demand for licences."

Mr Wilson said the organisation welcomed the NAO's recommendations and had begun to plan how to implement most of them.

Work had already begun into raising standards before the review, he said.

He said the SIA had already carried out a feasibility study into the effectiveness of forcing private security companies to register their details with it.

He said there was always more the organisation needed to do but said it was committed to raising standards in the industry.

In December, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to tell MPs that 6,653 people who had been licensed by the SIA were in fact not allowed to work in the UK.

A further 4,447 others had been authorised without having proved their right to do so.

The revelations prompted a series of targeted enforcement operations to remove workers and prosecute employers.

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