Lessons from the Frontline - Pragmatism when Commissioning an Investigation
The idea of commissioning an investigation can come with concerns of unexpected costs and impact on resources and bandwidth. Add to this, there are new forms of evidence that you'll need to consider, like WhatsApp, Teams and Zoom, and social media content, which add material complexities to the process.
Our expert panel of public inquiry and investigations experts share their points of view and experience, and insights on the steps to take when commissioning an investigation, drawing from their real-life experiences from some of the most challenging investigations. Topics covered included Commissioning an investigation, Investigation Operating Modesl and policies and processes, Leadership and Culture, data and systems, and remediation.
Our panellist, Ed Marsden, Founder of Verita, has developed a top ten tips for conducting an investigation shared with Epiq as part of the webinar collaboration of public investigations and inquiry experts.
Verita’s Guide for Conducting an investigation
- Be clear about what you are doing. Think about why you need an investigation or inquiry and what you want it to achieve.
- Write terms of reference. Having established a clear purpose, write it down and clear it your lawyers. Do not automatically commit the organisation to full and open publication of the final report.
- Retrieve and safeguard evidence. Recover and keep safe all relevant documents and records as soon as possible. This minimises loss or changes after the event. Keep a log of what you recover. If a crime may have been committed, cordon off the area before the police arrive.
- Make immediate improvements. If you know what went wrong, take immediate action to put it right; do not wait for the investigation report. Otherwise you risk the problem recurring and being criticised for being slow to respond, or worse.
- Support staff and victims. An adverse incident can affect everyone involved. Make sure you support everyone, not just the obvious victims. Bring in specialists if necessary.
- Appoint a chair and panellists. Select the chair and panellists carefully and with an eye to the skills and expertise needed to carry out the investigation effectively. The credibility of the investigation will depend on these people.
- Manage the investigative process. Responsibility for managing the investigative process rests with the commissioning organisation. Strike up a sensible working relationship with the chair and panellists based on agreed procedures, costs and a timetable. Consider providing administrative support to keep it on track. Identify a senior manager to maintain links with the chair, ensure that the reasonable needs and expectations of the panel are met and manage potential conflicting interests of other investigators, such as the police.
- Implement recommendations. Act on the panel’s recommendations. If there are recommendations that you are not prepared to implement, explain why.
- Communicate. Whether or not the investigation report is published, you will need to communicate what went wrong, the lessons learned and the actions taken. Decide who you need to tell, what you need to say, how you are going to say it – and when.