UK MPs condemn BBC for gross failures on executive pay-offs

Joseph O'Halloran | 16-12-2013

Concluding its investigation into excessive pay-offs to former BBC executives, the Public Accounts Committeeof the UK parliament has slammed the corporation for lack of scrutiny, effectiveness of governance and even dishonesty.

In its excoriating conclusions, the PAC slammed the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust for letting down licence fee payers and diminishing the reputation of the broadcaster by allowing a culture to develop whereby a number of departing senior managers received what the PAC called 'sweeteners' in their severance packages.

The PAC stressed that it was fundamentally unacceptable for the BBC, or any other public body, to give departing senior managers huge severance payments that far exceed their contractual entitlements.It condemned the checks that the BBC Executive applied to severance pay for senior managers as “totally inadequate”
The committee said that it welcomed the decision taken by Lord Hall, shortly after he took up post as Director General of the BBC in April 2013, to cap severance payments and added that such changes needed to be matched by the BBC Trust, headed by Lord Chris Patten, addressing what the PAC called its “failure to provide rigorous scrutiny and challenge, on behalf of licence fee payers” of the executive's management of severance payments. Indeed, the PAC said that such revelations have left it with concerns about the effectiveness of the present governance arrangements at the BBC.
Furthermore it condemned as an ”unedifying spectacle” witnesses from the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust disputing each other's evidence on severance pay thus revealing a “serious breakdown in governance, record-keeping and accountability”.
In particular it noted that the doubts it expressed about some of the oral evidence given by witnesses during its hearing in July 2013 “proved well-founded”. The PAC said in statement: “We remain concerned about the veracity of other parts of the oral evidence we heard. Misleading a select committee constitutes contempt of Parliament, which can have very serious consequences. Witnesses must ensure that their evidence is free from misstatement.”
In conclusion, the PAC said that the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust need to overhaul the way they conduct their business, and record and communicate decisions properly.
It recommended that the BBC should remind its staff that they are all individually responsible for protecting public money and challenging wasteful practices.To protect licence fee payers' interests and its own reputation, the PAC said that the BBC should establish internal procedures that provide clear central oversight and effective scrutiny of severance payments.