Latest Public Sector News

02.11.12

NAO qualifies audit opinion over SFO pay-off

The National Audit Office has criticised the pay-off given to the former CEO of the Serious Fraud Office, saying “there is no evidence that due process was followed”. 

Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, has said the severance agreement for Phillippa Williamon – a payment of £407,000 to MyCSP, which administers the pension scheme, as well as an “irregular” special payment of £15,000 – were not approved by the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. 

He has qualified his audit opinion for the 2011/12 accounts for the SFO, meaning that transactions have been made which are not as prescribed by Parliament.

Williamson, left the SFO on 16 April 2012, but the NAO said: “There is no evidence that due process was followed in instigating this voluntary redundancy (for example, determining whether alternative positions within the Civil Service were sought).  

“The new SFO director, David Green, assumed office on 21 April 2012, and was therefore not party to the severance arrangements.  He has decided against seeking retrospective approval for the transactions because he believes they were inappropriate. On becoming aware of the issue, the Director sought legal advice which confirmed that the agreement was legally binding and the SFO was legally obliged to make the payments. He commissioned an independent review into the matter with the results being shared with the Attorney General’s Office and has taken steps to ensure that all future exit packages are appropriately reviewed.” 

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “By failing to seek approval from the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office entered into an agreement which forced it to make irregular payments. While positive steps have been taken by the incoming Director, I have qualified the organisation’s accounts.” 

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