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After weeks of speculation the SRA has further delayed their plans for this year’s renewals and recognitions process. The regulator has announced that selected firms will be used as guinea pigs to test the MySRA portal. Presumably the decision to delay the much awaited announcement about the MySRA online portal until after 5pm on a Friday afternoon was little more than a ploy designed to try and buy the SRA a little more time to manage the fallout.
The continuing delay in confirming the process is unacceptable. Let’s not forget that the SRA’s annual report for the period 2009-10 indicated how much of a key part of the SRA’s thinking the online portal is. Anthony Townsend’s summary at the start of the report referred to the spend on IT as having “provided us with a vastly improved IT infrastructure, facilitating more efficient and effective ways of working”. This theme continues through the body of the report with further reference to the impact in automating standard processes and minimising duplication in order to deliver the “most effective and cost efficient service”.
Today, these words appear to have been premature.
This process has been nothing short of a disaster for the SRA executive management team. Their reputations have been gambled against a vision of streamlined services delivered with state of the art IT systems.Millions of pounds (most of if from practising certificate fees) have been spent in the development of the system and it is not fit for purpose despite the launch having been delayed several weeks. Their plans for transforming the way the organisation operates are in disarray. How will the SRA operate effectively and deliver on their promises with inadequate IT? What impact has the failure of the project had on staff morale that already seems to have taken a hit during the restructuring programme earlier in 2011?
Who know because the whole fiasco has been hidden away behind a facade of secrecy. Not a word has leaked from the SRA about whether MySRA was likely to function or not. Solicitors continue to experience difficulties in registering and activating their accounts. The helpline is inaccessible with 30 minute waiting times to speak with someone. How can the profession have trust in the way their details have been processed. The whole process has been badly communicated and badly delivered. How can the SRA have any credibility when setting deadlines for practices in the future when it cannot meet their own.
The SRA will argue that the events are unique and unexpected. Yet the same organisation expects their regulated community to have extensive plans for dealing with such contingency events. The SRA is not practising what it preaches. The Compliance Officers for Legal Practice at firms will be expected to report such IT problems in the future if they have caused material regulatory breaches – they will not be able lurk behind the same cloak of secrecy as the SRA and half hearted apologies.
Who can say that they trust the system to do what it is supposed to do? Can the SRA give a categorical assurance when the system will be fit for purpose? Or will we see months of further development work affecting the integrity of data held?
We await a further announcement on the 24th November. In the meantime the SRA Board will need to start taking a long hard look at the MySRA project from start to finish. This was the cornerstone of their transformation strategy and it has simply not been delivered. Searching questions need to be asked of the executive team and those responsible for the delivery of the project.
Client Relationship Manager
T: 0845 056 3949
M: 0743 727 4046
The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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