Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It


Ah... this is the life
1. 2012 bosses get stuck in

The salary bill for the London 2012 Olympics bosses has already topped £3 million:

"Among the fees paid, Lord Coe received £285,000 as Locog's non-executive chairman and Paul Deighton, Locog's chief executive, was paid £536,000 including a £100,000 performance-related bonus".

Locog- the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games- is the quango responsible for staging the games, not building the facilities. Since the games don't happen for another five years, what on earth is the "performance" we're talking about here?

Yes, it's another case of Public Sector Bonus Farce (see this blog).

2. Expenses

We've blogged the disheartening case of NAO head Sir John Bourn's foreign travel expenses several times (eg see here and here).

A key part of his defence is that he sometimes extended official trips to exotic locations (with Lady B in tow) not so they could have a holiday, but so he could hold further business discussions.
For example, the NAO told the Public Accounts Commission that an extended trip to the Bahamas in October 2006- at the swanky Wyndham Resort, above- was not so he and Lady B could have a spot of quality R&R, but so he could hold bilateral meetings with Bahamian officials, including the "Accountant General" (see here, and this blog).

Just one problem- no such person exists.

We know that because an eagle eyed member of Transparency International combed the lists of officials in the Bahamas and could find nobody matching that description. That has now been confirmed.

When quizzed, the NAO changed their story:

"I have now been able to confirm the meetings Sir John had when he was in the Bahamas. My original letter was taken from a draft programme for the visit, which was the only written record we held. I understand that the reference to the Accountant General was in fact incorrect and was intended to refer to the Comptroller General of the United States, but in fact this meeting, which did not relate to the bilateral visit, did not occur as Mr Walker had to return to the United States immediately after the end of the CAROSAI Congress."

Well, that's OK then.

When Tyler was travelling abroad frequently on business, Mrs T never came. Not once. But there was always a detailed schedule of client meetings, with daily telephone contact back to London to report how they were going. Meeting notes had to be written, circulated, and filed. Naturally, all expense claims had to be accounted for, documented with proper receipts, and charged to specific cost centres.

Tyler is not claiming he was particularly assiduous- that's just the way things work in the real world.

It is ironic and extraordinarily depressing to find that the National Audit Office- the very people who are charged with safeguarding taxpayers' funds- run themselves with such a slapdash disregard for standard business operating procedures.

We've called on Sir John to do the right thing several times, so we won't bother again. But this isn't just an issue of morality- our overwhelming concern is to ensure that the NAO is not compromised in its work.

Of course, there are many who think it doesn't matter that much and Bourn should stay in post. Liam Halligan reckons:

"Sinister forces within government have recently tried to marginalise the NAO - and discredit Bourn personally. While not perfect, the NAO does huge amounts to protect taxpayers' interests by shining light in dark corners. The public knows that - which is why the smear tactics won't work."

The trouble is, while Bourn remains in post, the NAO's light shining activities are at constant risk being deflected by a big black pile of pots and kettles.

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