Equality and Human Rights Commission - Public Accounts Committee Contents

4 Major issues yet to be solved

20.  At the end of November 2009, the Commission discovered it had paid an extra £15,000 directly to one of the re-engaged staff three months after the individual had stopped working for the Commission. The Commission had not included this amount in the £323,708 of consultancy costs reported to the Treasury in January 2009. The Commission's Accounting Officer had launched an investigation, but had not yet been able to find out the justification for why the payment was made. He apologised for not having informed this Committee of this amount sooner, and accepted the Committee's criticism that this was not the way to run a public body.[64]

21.  The Commission has also breached its pay remit and staff complement.[65] The pay remit is an agreement between the Commission, the Department and the Treasury, which sets the limit for pay increases for permanent employees. The Commission's first pay remit was agreed with the Treasury in September 2008 and was based on estimated staff numbers. However, the estimated staff numbers were higher than the number of permanent staff actually employed. Although the total cash paid by the Commission was in line with the pay remit, it was shared amongst fewer staff. This meant that staff had received an average increase of 6.81% for 2007-08 and 4.8% for 2008-09, which exceeded the limits of 4% and 4.5% set out in the pay remit.[66]

22.  The Commission had also discovered in July 2009 that it was employing a total of 574 full time equivalent staff, whereas the Department had authorised it to employ only 525. This arose because of weak processes for recording, monitoring and reporting staff numbers.[67] The Commission's Accounting Officer stated that it had learned the lessons from these problems, and had put in place strong arrangements to control its staffing numbers. The Commission has now successfully reduced its staff complement from 574 to 511.[68]

23.  The Commission's first Chief Executive resigned in May 2009. This left the Commission in a difficult position as there remained major issues to be resolved. A competition was held to appoint an interim Director General to lead the organisation and act as Accounting Officer while the Department carried out a full recruitment exercise to appoint a permanent Chief Executive. The recruitment exercise took place during the summer but has not yet been concluded.[69] The interim Director General's contract runs only until January 2010.[70] As he costs £1,000 per day, this interim arrangement will cost the Commission £138,000 (excluding VAT) by the end of January 2010.[71]

64   Q 11; C&AG's Report, para 9 Back

65   Q 12 Back

66   EV 18, paras 28 and 29 Back

67   EV 19, paras 31 and 32 Back

68   Q 12 Back

69   Qq 82-86 Back

70   Q 80 Back

71   EV 30 Back

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