Odious Debts Online
October 28, 2007
Sir John Bourn, chief investigator of Britain’s public spending body, the National Audit Office, has himself come under public scrutiny for allegations of lavish spending, paid for by the public purse.
In the wake of criticism, Sir John’s own office volunteered the full cost of its Comptroller and Auditor-General’s spending in the interest of “transparency.” (www.timesonline.co.uk) The total travel bill for Sir John, his secretary and, on 22 occasions, his wife, is more than £365,000 for the past three years. Over the same period he has run up a meal account approaching £27,000.
Though a Parliamentary committee convened to examine the situation, concluded that there was “no evidence of impropriety,” Sir John’s spending did raise eyebrows. According to the Times Online “Details of his first-class air travel across the world with his wife, stays in grand hotels and meals at some of London’s finest restaurants sat uncomfortably with his job exposing inefficient use of taxpayers’ money.”
So too did his “reciprocal entertaining” with large accounting firms and leading government contractors, such as BAE Systems, who receive government contracts.
BAE Systems, whose contracts he had investigated, is the company caught in a corruption scandal over a controversial defence deal with Saudi Arabia. (see earlier coverage)
Liberal Democrat MP for Norfolk North, said Sir John’s behaviour “is inappropriate and leaves him open to charges of conflict of interest.”
Sir John has said he will retire next month over conflicts with his separate role heading the professional body for auditors and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said he is considering reforms in the new year to introduce tighter internal controls for the NAO. (www.guardian.co.uk)