Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Thompson to appear before committee

Mark Thompson confirmed he is willing to appear before the Public Accounts Committee

Former BBC director-general Mark Thompson has said he will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and is "looking forward" to laying the facts in front of MPs about hefty pay-offs to corporation executives.

The parliamentary committee heard the corporation had "lost the plot" over pay and remuneration to exiting BBC top brass and they gave a public mauling to corporation executives and the BBC Trust over payments amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds to several individuals.

Mr Thompson confirmed he was willing to appear but in a statement he said he wanted to clear up some "inaccuracies" which had occurred during the PAC's previous sitting.

They included the suggestion he had been involved in approving a payout to the former boss of BBC Knowledge, Roly Keating, who was given a package amounting to £375,000 despite having a new job lined up.

A report by the National Audit Office last month found the payment had not been properly authorised and Mr Keating - now the boss of the British Library - has since paid the money back.

Mr Thompson, who was director general at the time of the payment, said that he would not have approved the payout if he had been consulted.

Wednesday's hearing stemmed from a report by the National Audit Office which highlighted a number of cases in which large payments were made, to which some recipients were not strictly entitled.

In some cases money was paid in lieu of notice - even though that notice had been served - and in some others, redundancy payments were handed out where there was no entitlement, or where people were walking into new jobs.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said he hoped senior staff who received pay-offs to which they were not entitled would "make a gesture" and pay some money back. But he said there would be no legal effort to force them to as more evidence emerged of how the corporation doled out money to its top executives.

Director-general Tony Hall admitted the corporation had "lost the plot" over pay and remuneration as BBC bosses faced a parliamentary committee to discuss a National Audit Office (NAO) report that showed some departing staff had been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds more than they were contractually owed.

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