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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is an independent Government department responsible for investigating and prosecuting suspected offences involving serious and complex fraud, including bribery and corruption.  It covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The SFO is superintended by the Attorney General in accordance with the principles set out in the Protocol between the Attorney General and the Prosecuting Departments. The SFO was created by the Criminal Justice Act 1987 and was established in 1988.

The SFO has a core budget which is supplemented by additional funding.  This additional funding includes so-called “blockbuster” funding, which is used to enable the SFO to take on big cases where the annual expenditure is expected to exceed an agreed percentage of its core budget.  The SFO’s website provides details of current and recent funding settlements.

The SFO has described this funding arrangement as “a workable mechanism which allows the SFO to respond flexibly to a demand-led workload”.

However, in a 2016 report into the SFO’s governance arrangements, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate identified some concerns with the blockbuster funding approach. The report acknowledged that the blockbuster model gave the SFO flexibility to expand and contract its workforce, but suggested that it also gave rise to “significant staffing concerns”.

The report concluded that the current funding model was not providing the best value for money, and that more efficiency could be achieved by raising core funding.  If core funding were increased, then the cost level at which blockbuster funding could be applied for could also be increased and the need to resort to additional funds would be significantly reduced.

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