Equality and Human Rights Commission - Public Accounts Committee Contents

2 The cost of setting up the Commission

9.  The Commission spent £38.8 million on setting itself up and winding down the Legacy Commissions in the period covered by its 2006-08 accounts (Figure 2). This includes the cost of the early exit scheme of £11.1 million, and the transition team's salaries, which cost £8.7 million.[28] The transition team had 83 members of staff who were employed for varying amounts of time over a period of 18 months. The members of the transition team therefore received an average of over £100,000 each.[29] The cost of the early exit scheme crystallised when the Legacy Commissions closed. The Commission's best estimate is that around 70% of the other set-up costs were also incurred after the Commission was launched; this indicates the extent to which the Commission was not ready for business on 1 October 2007.[30]Figure 2: Set-up costs reported in the Commission's 2006-08 accounts (in £ million)

Source: Ev 25, Annex B

10.  A further £9.3 million was spent by the Commission on purchasing new equipment, such as computer terminals, even though it inherited equipment from the Legacy Commissions. The Commission wrote off assets inherited from the Legacy Commissions at a cost of £1.4 million. The Commission could not explain why it chose not to use the equipment it inherited from the Legacy Commissions.[31]

11.  The cost of reconfiguring the Commission's estate has also been high. Each of the Legacy Commissions had a head office in London, as well as offices in Scotland and Wales. The Commission decided that 14 of these leased properties were not suitable for the new Commission.[32] In particular, it considered that the old London head office buildings were too small to house the 160 staff the Commission wanted to base in London, and that some of the buildings did not meet accessibility standards.[33] Disposing of these leases cost the Commission £2.7 million during the 2006-08 period, and the Commission is still trying to dispose of a long term lease for one London property.[34] The Commission is continuing to review the properties it occupies, and intends to rationalise its holdings to reduce costs.[35] The Department confirmed that the Commission will be expected to transfer more staff to its Manchester offices when the lease on its current headquarters building expires in 2013.[36]

12.  This Committee and its predecessors have previously taken evidence on the creation of public bodies, most recently in the case of the creation of HM Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office.[37] We are disappointed to see that the same mistakes continue to be made and at a significant cost to the tax payer.[38]

28   Qq 92-93; Ev 25, Annex B Back

29   Q 69 Back

30   Ev 32-33 Back

31   Qq 112-114 Back

32   Q 118 Back

33   Qq 115, 123 and 124 Back

34   Qq 116 and 120 Back

35   Q 125 Back

36   Qq 122, 126 and 128 Back

37   Qq 136 and 137; Committee of Public Accounts, Fifty-first Report of Session 2007-08, Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, HC 601, para 4-5 Back

38   Qq 92 and 137 Back

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