Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)



  120. Whose judgment was that?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) That was the judgment of officials and ministers together.

  121. Which people made that judgment?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) People in the Government Office which was dealing with this, people in the centre of what was then the DoE, speaking from memory, and, where ministers were consulted, ministers.

  122. You have not mentioned any names. Can I have a name? Three names, five names, ten names?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I would rather not get into naming them.

  123. You might not want to, I would like to have the names please.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Names of who?

  124. The people who took the judgment, despite all this catalogue of error and lack of corporate governance, to continue a dialogue, to continue to allow Mr Duncan Hall to run this Corporation.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It would have been the accounting officers who ultimately took those decisions.

  125. And their names are?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Their names are Sir Terence Heiser, Sir Richard Wilson and Sir Andrew Turnbull.

  126. Do you think those three individuals' judgment was wrong?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No.

  127. So if this position arose again, or these things came to light again, you would again say that no action should be taken? None of those recommendations you listed should happen in similar circumstances?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Well, I think—

  128. This is very important because it is all going to happen again, is it not?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It is very important. The only reason why I was hesitating was because there was, as I said earlier, a trade-off in the minds of the people concerned about the benefits of the stewardship in terms of the regeneration outputs that were being produced—

  129. I understand all that.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I am coming on to answer your question.—compared with some of the issues which arose here. What I think this Report brings out quite clearly in a number of respects is that although we had, by the standards of the time, quite strong governance and audit arrangements for this body, the way in which we approach the governance of non-departmental public bodies needs further to be strengthened.

  130. But you do not think the judgment of those three civil servants you mentioned was wrong?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No, I do not wish to criticise them obviously.

  131. I did not ask you what you wished, I asked whether you thought their judgment was wrong.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I think the decisions were taken in good faith, let's put it like that.

  132. They were not criminals, no. These people are very senior civil servants in our Government—
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

  133.—and you have just named three people whose judgment I consider to have been appalling.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I only named them because you asked me to give you the accounting officers' names.

  134. Correct, but they were the people who took this judgment, and it seems to me their judgment was quite appalling, and yet they are still in positions of seniority in Government with that same lack of judgment. Politicians fall on questions of their judgment, why do not senior civil servants fall in the same way?

  Chairman: It is a bit unfair to criticise people who are not here. Under the rules of how we play this, Sir Richard is now responsible, and it does not help to make criticisms of previous accounting officers.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I was trying to avoid doing that, Chairman.

  Chairman: I know you were. You have made your point, Mr Gibb, carry on.

  135. The Chairman referred to paragraph 5.11 and it is about the threatened resignation of the Chairman when the Department wanted to send in an audit team. Why did not the threat of the Chairman resigning ring alarm bells with the Department?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It rang alarm bells with the Department in the sense that they did not want the Chairman to resign.

  136. If you want to send in an auditor and a senior man in that organisation says, "If you do, I will resign", I, as an accountant, would say, "We must send in an auditor tomorrow."
  (Sir Richard Mottram) It was not a question that we lacked knowledge about, for example, the financial state of the Corporation, or we lacked the capacity to gain that knowledge. I cannot speak for the Chairman but my assumption is that what the Chairman was saying was, "If you are going to call into question the way in which we are running this Corporation, fine, but I do not wish to be involved in that process." At that time, it was decided it was much preferable to maintain those in charge of the Corporation because they were delivering results.

  137. Again, another judgment call?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, of course.

  138. Which we are not allowed to talk about. Mr Hall, you said in one of your answers, "I cannot understand why we were receiving fully audited accounts", could you expand on that for me?
  (Mr Hall) As an aside, whatever the interpretation or otherwise of the correspondence on page 18, could I for the record say I do not lie and I did not lie. I just make that point for the record. The point has already been touched on. We are looking back over a period of time of 11 years and a number of people are saying how appalling part of the work of the Corporation was, I have accepted that concerns were raised but the ultimate statement was nobody said, "You should not be doing that", nobody said, "You should not have done that."

  139. There were loads of missives from the Department, were there not?
  (Mr Hall) People were expressing concerns—

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Prepared 14 August 2002