A confidential deal between the Northern Ireland Policing Board and former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde allowed his family to travel at taxpayers’ expense on UK business class flights for almost six years.
Orde were supposed to fly for free for just 12 months ...they did so for nearly six years
claims there is a ‘sinister and relentless effort to undermine his integrity’
Almost £30,000 was spent on Belfast, Dublin and London flights for Sir Hugh’s family from 2002 to 2007 under a provision within his contract that was only supposed to last for 12 months while they resettled in Northern Ireland.
The Policing Board said the provision was not reviewed after the 12-month period as contractually agreed due to an “administrative oversight”.
Sir Hugh has said that the flights, which were bought and paid for by the PSNI, were used by his son and his then wife.
Information obtained from the Policing Board by the Belfast Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act reveals for the first time the details of the deal agreed with Sir Hugh before he took up his post as Chief Constable in 2002.
The ‘transitional travel provision’ within his contract, which was negotiated confidentially, states that “during the first 12 months following appointment, the Chief Constable shall be entitled to two return business class flights per month (or a total of 24 in the year) from London to Belfast for use by his immediate family”.
It adds: “The Board will meet any tax liabilities. This provision will be reviewed at the end of the 12 months.”
Although the deal was for 12 months, when his former wife and son were still residing in London, it was not withdrawn until 2007.
Following a review in 2007, there was an agreement between the Policing Board and Sir Hugh that he would reimburse 50% of the costs of flights from October 2004 to April 2007, according to a Freedom of Information response.
The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph that the total amount of money refunded by Sir Hugh for PSNI flights availed of by his family members from October 2004 to April 2007 was £5,673.
The PSNI also provided a breakdown of the cost in each year of flights paid for by the PSNI for Sir Hugh’s family. In 2002 £2,388 was spent, in 2003 the bill was £8,564, in 2004 it was £8,159, in 2005 it was £5,228, in 2006 £3,244 was paid out, and in 2007 £604 was spent.
The PSNI said that the expenditure covered flights to and from Gatwick, Heathrow, Belfast and Dublin.
The Policing Board said that the then chairman of the board and the interim chief executive were involved in drawing up the Chief Constable’s employment package, which included the free flights deal, when he joined the PSNI in 2002.
Sir Desmond Rea was the chairman at the time and Ivan Wilson was the interim chief executive.
A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said transitional travel arrangements are part of contractual negotiation and agreement.
In a letter to Private Eye magazine this month, Sir Hugh said that his contract of employment as PSNI Chief Constable, negotiated with the Policing Board, “took account of the complexities in undertaking the role of Chief Constable of Northern Ireland”.
He added: “I am immensely proud of the achievements of the police service I had the privilege to command for seven years and I have no idea why there continues to be a sinister and relentless effort to undermine my integrity.”
Sir Hugh also said that the only people to make use of the flights were his then wife and his son.
Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said he was concerned that the board allowed the transitional travel provision to continue for several years when it was supposed to end after 12 months.
“This makes the board appear not to give a damn about taxpayers’ money. This is a waste of money from the public purse,” the DUP man added.
By Deborah McAleese
IN 2002 cash was not much of an object when it came to policing and money was lavished on senior officers without question.
A generous package of pay, allowances and bonuses was drawn up at the time for the new Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde that included a £180,000-plus salary and an annual bonus of up to 15%.
Sir Hugh also enjoyed a living allowance which enabled him to live rent free in a £600,000 luxury home, with all his utility bills including rates, electricity, phone, heating, broadband connection and property maintenance picked up by the PSNI.
He moved into the luxury home in 2004 and up to the middle of 2009 almost £100,000 was spent upgrading the PSNI-owned property. Some of the costs for the |former Chief Constable’s residence included £600 for new curtains, £475 to replace a defective |shower, £222 to power wash outside, £1,080 to replace a dining room carpet and £75 to spray a wasps’ nest.
The Belfast Telegraph has also obtained details of a number of extra benefits that were agreed confidentially between Sir Hugh and the Policing Board.
As well as being offered two return business class flights a month from London to Belfast for his
family, Sir Hugh was also offered an interest free loan of up to £5,000 if he wanted to buy a car.
He was also entitled to resettlement expenses for him and his family to move to Northern Ireland. These expenses included a new school uniform for his son.
A removal allowance entitled the Chief Constable to be reimbursed for the cost of removal of household belongings, disposal of his former home as well as ongoing expenses in respect of his former home.
When Sir Hugh left the PSNI |in 2009 the Policing Board |made moves to tighten up the bonus and allowance packages for chief officers.