Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)



  100. Yes.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Because just a few weeks previously both officials and ministers had reviewed all of the Corporation's forward plans and this problem had not been clearly brought to their attention.

  101. But surely you could not have looked very far, because even a cursory study of their accounts showed huge deferred payments.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, I agree.

  102. So why were there not—
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think the deferred payments are indeed the issue. The way in which the Corporation were anticipating money voted by Parliament years ahead was an issue which the Department should really have confronted more directly.

  103. And it did not. So what have you done to make sure it does not happen again?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) From 1996 onwards there was a much stronger focus within the Department and within the Government Office on the cash flow management of the Corporation. Indeed, as the Report brings out, in order to avoid the Corporation, for example, not paying its debts, the Department supplied additional money, and it supplied additional money in circumstances where it was repeatedly writing to the Corporation over a period of many years saying to the Corporation, "You must live within your budget, you will not get more money from the Government, you must operate within a framework of Government accounting." Perhaps people within the Department—I have to choose my words carefully—thought this message would be rather more readily received than it was.

  104. In paragraph 2.18 there is in effect in the careful way in which the NAO phrases these things an allegation that the Chief Executive lied to you. This is in regard to the calls you had received from solicitors and a bank asking for security, "The Chief Executive told the Department that the enquiries from third parties had arisen from contractors who were tendering for Corporation work . . . However, the original enquiries from the solicitors and the bank concerned the security that the Corporation could offer to banks . . .", in other words, the Chief Executive told you something which subsequently turned out not to be the case. Do you think he has lied?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think that is perhaps a question for him.

  105. It is a question to you.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, I know, I am sorry. It appears so, yes. I know what answer he will give, if we give him the chance here: that this was something which could be put right.

  106. Sorry?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) This is something which could be put right by not doing it again, and then the issue is, does it get done again.

  107. But you think he lied?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I do not want to accuse anyone of lying.

  108. You just did. You just said he lied.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) You asked me the question, "Would it appear he lied from paragraph 2.18 of the Report"—

  109. And you answered?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It would.

  110. No, you did not, you said, "Yes, he lied." Well, I cannot remember, but the record will show what you said.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It probably will.

  111. I am sorry but this has happened twice in the last 15 minutes. You said you agreed with me he had bent and broken the rules and then two minutes later you took that back; a minute ago you said he lied and now you take that back.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Actually the only thing I took back was "consistently".

  112. I know you have been pretty careful with your language in recent days and the whole national media has been following what you have been saying—
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I am a completely reformed character.

  113. Your use of language in the last 15 minutes has been quite extraordinary. You said very harsh things about Mr Hall, took them back a minute or two later. It seems an extraordinary attitude you are taking.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No, I think the words I tried to take back were the question about "consistently". I deliberately took them back because I thought they were unfair. The point I was trying to make in taking them back and then restating my position was that there are a number of cases in this Report where I believe the rules were broken, and on some of those cases the Department either knew and did not perhaps take action (we could argue about the action it took), in other cases according to the Report it did not know. This was over a long period of time, so we are picking out a number of examples in the case of a Corporation that was in being for a large number of years and, as Mr Hall himself pointed out, dealt with lots and lots of deals, and we are just looking at a small sample of them where it went wrong. That is my position, if I may restate it.

  Mr Osborne: I have to say that I do find your whole attitude one of arrogance and flippancy, to use your own word. I know it is terribly inconvenient for you to come before us today, you have just suspended your Head of Media and you probably have loads more problems on your plate, but I have to say from reading this Report in the eight months I have been on this Committee this is the most damning report I have read. I am a relatively new member of this Committee but it is the most damning report I have read and your whole attitude, I have to say, I find absolutely distasteful. I will end my questioning there.

Mr Gibb

  114. Sir Richard, you said in answer to a colleague that the Department could reasonably have expected the Corporation to have conducted itself within the framework of governance. Do you still hold by that answer?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I do.

  115. Is that the Department's approach to all such organisations?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It is.

  116. So if the organisation is not conducting itself within the framework of governance, what happens?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What I said right at the beginning is that we have a framework in which we operate, we can talk about the way in which we monitor performance, there are regular discussions going on between us and the non-departmental public bodies which we are responsible for, if an organisation operates outwith that framework then there are a number of different steps you could take in relation to that body.

  117. For example?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) For example, you could change the delegations, you could change the Board, you could ask the Board to change the Chief Executive.

  118. Which of those has been done in this case?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) None.

  119. Why not?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Because on balance the Department decided the best course was to maintain an active dialogue with the Corporation but not to take any of those courses.

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