Equality and Human Rights Commission - Public Accounts Committee Contents

4. Memorandum from Equalities and Human Rights Commission


  I am writing to let you know of an issue that has been brought to my attention in the last few days in relation to the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Equality and Human Rights Commission's accounts which the Public Accounts Committee will be considering on Wednesday.

  The Comptroller and Auditor General's report refers to consultancy fees which were paid to seven individuals re-engaged by the Commission on short-term contracts without the Treasury's authority. In the case of one individual, the total consultancy fee quoted was £105,216. That figure is drawn from the business case which the Commission put to the Government Equalities Office and subsequently to the Treasury.

  I have now been told that a further payment of £15,000 was made directly to the individual concerned, after he had left the Commission. The papers that I have seen describe the payment as a "rate change".

  The payment was authorised by the Interim Chief Operating Officer of the Commission but I am not yet clear why the payment was made. Many of the individuals directly concerned have now left the Commission and I am contacting them to try to understand the decision-making process which led to the payment. I will pursue these inquiries and let the Government Equalities Office and the National Audit Office have a report on this as soon as I am able to do so. The NAO have told me that they will review the circumstances of the payment. The payment was treated as an accrual in the Commission's accounts for 2006-08.

  It does not seem that the extra payment was included in the calculation of the business case that was put to the Government Equalities Office and the Treasury, nor was it notified separately to the National Audit Office when the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Annual Report and Accounts was in preparation.

  As the Commission's present Accounting Officer, I considered it essential to draw the payment to the attention of the Government Equalities Office and the Comptroller and Auditor General, as I did last week, and to write to you about it now. I very much regret it was not included in the numbers previously notified and that I cannot yet fully explain it. I apologise on behalf of the Commission.

  I am copying this letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General, to Neil Sayers at the National Audit Office and to Jonathan Rees at the Government Equalities Office.

Neil Kinghan

Interim Director-General

1 December 2009

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