Forensic Science Procurement

I just listened to this week’s File on 4 (available till the 15th), which was about the “marketisation” of the forensic science services used by the Police.

It began fairly predictably as critique of the privatisation of the Forensic Science Service, which led to the system we now have — where multiple companies bid for contracts to provide forensic services to the Police. The usual criticisms were trotted out: that markets are amoral, and that everything was rosy before the capitalists came along. But the program fairly swiftly moved on to more interesting and familiar territory: procurement.

It was the same sorry old story. Heavy-weight tendering processes. The granting of long contracts for huge sums. Contracts managed by staff with little specific expertise in forensics. Commoditisation of services where expert analysis is key to success. Bureaucratic intermediation between the staff who need things and the contractors who get things done. Sound familiar?

It seems that many of the problems that beset IT procurement affect forensics as well. I can’t say I’m surprised — the problems are, after all, endemic — but somehow it’s a lot scarier to hear these things said about forensic science.

I wonder how many people have been imprisoned as a result of barmy procurement rules?