Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

BBC pay-offs 'risk public trust'

In a three-year period up to December, the BBC spent 25 million pounds on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff

The BBC has made hefty pay-offs to senior staff which breached the corporation's own guidelines, putting "public trust at risk", the National Audit Office said.

They amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases - approved at high level, even by the director-general - even though executives were not always entitled to the money. The NAO's review of redundancy and severance payments to senior figures concluded they have given "poor value for money".

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the report had revealed "a culture of pay-offs that simply cannot be justified" and the BBC Trust said the NAO conclusions were "deeply worrying".

The BBC's new director-general, Tony Hall, accepted the report's findings and said: "The level of some of these payments was wrong."

In one case examined by the NAO, they found an executive was paid £300,000 in lieu of notice after their redundancy was agreed - despite actually serving their notice in full. The payment, equivalent to the cost of 2,062 licence fees - was agreed by then DG Mark Thompson, and the unnamed figure's redundancy was paid even though they had found a new job.

In a three-year period up to December, the BBC spent £25 million on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff, according to the report. And since 2005 it has made payments totalling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

In almost a quarter of the individual cases reviewed by the NAO, the BBC paid out more than the staff were entitled to under their contracts.

The report also highlights the case of former BBC2 controller Roly Keating who was given a £375,000 pay-off, but he returned the money last month after learning it had not been properly authorised.

Concerns about payments have been heightened in recent months following the decision to award former BBC director-general George Entwistle twice the money to which he was entitled after resigning from his job after only 54 days.

And there has been disquiet from the Commons Public Accounts Committee about a redundancy payment to former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson last year who left with a £670,000 pay-off - more than twice her £330,000 salary.

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