The new Chief Executive of the Office of Fair Trading, Clive Maxwell, gave his first speech on 10 September 2012 at the RPI Annual Competition and Regulation Conference (http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/speeches/2012/0612.pdf). Even if he will only hold this post for about two years due to the already launched and significant reform of the UK's competition enforcement bodies (ie the establishment of the Competition and Markets Authority, which will take on the competition, markets and remaining consumer functions of the OFT plus all of those of the Competition Commission), I think that his speech is an interesting reminder of institutional culture and public service commitment that deserves praise and diffusion.
One of the keys to a strong delivery culture is to invest in people and their skills. Only then can we efficiently deliver high impact, outcomes across our portfolio. This is a critical issue not just for the OFT but for regulators more generally, and one that may get overlooked in the rush to discuss processes and procedures
I care about how we choose what we do, how we achieve change for the better in the real world most efficiently and effectively.
I led an ‘enforcement debate’ at the start of 2012 within the OFT, to identify what we at the OFT do well and less well, and the challenges we face in doing it even better. We also discussed these issues with similar bodies in the UK and abroad. I was especially struck that we need to look outside the competition and consumer community and more generally at the way in which other authorities – such as the FSA, the Serious Fraud Office and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – tackle what are broadly similar challenges in addressing wrongdoing by businesses and individuals.
The conclusions to this work included three points:
• The importance of skills.
• The need for the right attitude –or culture– for successful enforcement work.
• The importance of intelligence.
What does this all show?For me, there are three important points to all of this.
The first is that while it is right that any agency needs to work hard at its processes and procedures, the skills and culture of the people in the organisation is at least as important. I believe that some of the potential for sharing such ideas between authorities remains to be exploited further. It is also the case that tackling this requires putting your money where your mouth is – skills development is an investment and it is important to recognise that this costs money. [...]
The second is that even where we are facing big organisational changes and uncertainty it is important to continue to invest time and effort doing things better. [...]
The third is that in running agencies such as the OFT it’s really important to continue to review how we do things, to experiment where needed, and to learn lessons from our own and others’ experiences.
I hope that the observations I have made have some relevance to the challenges your organisations are facing. For me, delivery is about people and commitment, as well as processes, and we must not forget that our staff are the major driver of our organisations’ success
I think that this is a reflection of the instutional culture present in most market regulators (broadly understood) in the UK, and an important ingredient in the recipe for a smooth transition to the new institutional framework for competition law enforcement.
It seems to me too that there are many lessons to be learned by other competition authorities immersed in enforcement architecture redesign, such as the Spanish National Competition Commission–which remains in a state of shock since a reform similar to the UK's was hinted at in the last Spring.