The costs associated with funding inquiries are not usually the main focus when an inquiry is set up; attention is given to the scope of the investigation and how best this can be achieved through the Terms of Reference. However as inquiries are funded by the public purse, pursuant to the Inquiries Act 2005 (sections 39-40), and in light of the current number of national inquiries addressing a range of topics, knowledge and interest in the costs involved has grown as the public focus on whether such inquiries provide value for money.
Each inquiry has published information about their expenditure however any analysis must consider the various Terms of Reference, as each inquiry’s scope is different, and thus the categories of costs.
For example IICSA has eight categories of costs:
- Safeguarding and other services for victims and survivors;
- Consultancy and specialist services;
- Stationary and office supplies; and
- Operation Hydrant (a ring fenced amount to co-ordinate the response of police forces for non-recent child abuse).
Nationally there have been/are four inquiries focussing on abuse:
- England and Wales – IICSA – last week IICSA published an updated Management Statement and their Financial Report for the first quarter of 2017/2018, including further details of expenditure relating to the Panel members. Their expenditure for the first quarter was £6.1 million, with staffing costs taking up the largest amount of £2,429,714 and legal costs £1,464,578. The total costs of this inquiry to date is therefore £41.63 million.
- Scotland – Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry – they also publish information about their expenditure quarterly. Their expenditure for this latest quarter was £2,110,588 bringing their total expenditure to £7,835,056 since December 2015.
- Northern Ireland – Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry – the HIA’s yearly costs for 2015/2016 were £3.28 million, bringing their total expenditure since 2012 to £10.74 million.
- Jersey – Independent Jersey Care Inquiry – Jersey’s expected expenditure until the end of this February is estimated to be £14,994,857.
Therefore to date these four inquiries have cost a total of £75,199,913.
The initial and ongoing costs are one thing. Issues of redress are another financial aspect that cannot be forgotten as redress usually involves contributions both from the Government and private institutions. In Australia, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse anticipates it will cost $4.3 billion (approximately £3,336,124 billon) over 10 years to provide redress to 65,000 victims of child sexual abuse in Australia, based on an average payment of $65,000 to each victim.
What we do know from other jurisdictions where inquiries have completed their work is that these inquiries generally tend to cost a lot more than estimated and take much longer than anticipated. A recent Special Report from the Comptroller and Auditor in the Republic of Ireland on the Costs of Child Abuse Inquiry and Redress noted the following:
- The Department of Education and Skills in the Republic of Ireland initially forecast the cost of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to be €2.5 million whereas the final cost of the Commissions work is estimated to be €82 million;
- The final report of the Commission – often referred to as the Ryan Report – was published in May 2009 and the work of the Commission in dealing with third party costs is ongoing. It is estimated that the Commission will conclude its business before the end of 2017 some 15 years later than planned.
Striking the right balance between efficiency and proportionality is important. Public perception about inquiries and what can be achieved are topics that have been aired in the media recently. This combined with ongoing costs has raised questions about efficiency however investigations take time and it is important to not lose sight of the reasons they were set up in the first place. It is understandable however that there are often doubts from many quarters as to the long term costs benefit of such wide ranging inquiries and concerns that the monies could have been put to more focused and beneficial use for those who have been abused.