FOS has recently been subject to an independent review as a result of concerns about the service raised by a Channel 4 documentary. This review was considered by the Treasury Committee and as part of his report the independent reviewer recommended that some past cases should be subject to a case review process.
9. As part of its medium-term planning, the FOS board should reflect on and learn from the operational execution of the reorganisation to date and consider ways to more effectively realise its objectives, including the approach to case handling and the capabilities that will be required. This should include a further exercise to check an appropriate sample of casework, to make sure that decisions made during the early stages of the reorganisation were handled in accordance with the controls and standards put in place at the time. Knowledge, technology and data
The FOS Chief Executive said these checks would be made by one of FOS’s “most experienced ombudsmen”…a process which would not be properly independent of course, as the person doing the review would know all the FOS staff whose work was being reviewed.
Fortunately Ms Morgan has spotted this and she has written to Caroline Wayman to ask that a more independent person should be appointed, and that some complex cases should be looked at as part of this process. Whilst this is essential if a meaningful process is to result, it may be difficult to find a suitable person who has sufficient knowledge of FOS controls and standards, but is not an ex-FOS employee. The person chosen should also have financial advice qualifications I would suggest, as past criticism of FOS has mentioned the lack of financial qualifications of FOS staff.
If a current or past FOS employee or director is chosen to carry out these checks, few (if any) ordinary people will regard the outcome as independent.