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Saturday, 7 September 2013

BBC HR Boss Admits Mistake


The BBC's Director of Human Resources has admitted that evidence she gave to Parliament was not entirely accurate.

The BBC has been under pressure to explain why it paid £25m of licence fee payers' money to 150 outgoing managers, which in a quarter of cases exceeded their contractual entitlement. A damning National Audit Office report revealed the following payments had been made:
  • £680,400 to former Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson, who left the BBC in 2011.
  • £949,000 to former Deputy Director-General Mark Byford, who left the BBC in 2011.
  • £1,031,000 to former CEO of BBC Worldwide John Smith, who left the BBC in 2011. Mr Smith later returned £205,000.
  • £511,500 to former Director-General George Entwistle, who left the BBC in 2012. Mr Entwistle, who was employed in various BBC roles for 24 years, resigned from the role of Director-General after only 54 days.
  • £375,000 to former Head of BBC Archives Roly Keating, who left the BBC in 2012. Mr Keating later returned the full amount.
  • £395,000 to former Director of Marketing, Communications and Audiences Sharon Baylay, who left the BBC in 2011.
Lucy Adams, who has occupied the top HR role for the last 5 years, was one of a number of BBC bosses summoned to appear before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 10th July 2013. The Committee, chaired by straight-talking Labour MP Margaret Hodge, branded the BBC's handling of these payments "an outrageous waste of licence fee payers' money". 

 Lucy Adams giving evidence to the PAC on 10th July 2013.

Ms Adams, who will leave the BBC next March, was accused of a dereliction of duty for her role in authorising the pay-offs. Seemingly trying to distance herself from the flak, Ms Adams denied seeing an October 2010 memo outlining the proposed severance deals.

Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten of Barnes, told the Committee that he was unaware of the full extent of the severance deals as they had been authorised by the former Director-General Mark Thompson.

A few days ago Mr Thompson, who has been called to give evidence before the Committee next week, submitted written evidence contradicting both Ms Adams' and Lord Patten's suggestions that they were kept in the dark. The re-emergence of Mr Thompson's evidence has prompted Ms Adams to reconsider what she told the Committee at the July hearing. In what the BBC describes as a "clarification" Ms Adams now admits that her evidence was mistaken and that she had actually helped to draft the October 2010 memo after all. In other words she knew full well the severance payments that were proposed.

Aside from the BBC executive pay-off scandal, it would appear that Ms Adams is not overly popular with some of her colleagues. This stems from claims that HR officials snooped on the emails of an NUJ union rep during recent industrial action over pension changes.

The Public Accounts Committee has scheduled a second oral evidence session for 3.15 pm on Monday, 9th September 2013. The following people have been called to give evidence:
  • Mark Thompson, former BBC Director-General.
  • Lucy Adams, BBC Director of Human Resources.
  • Marcus Agius, former Chairman of the BBC Executive Board Remuneration Committee.
  • Lord Patten of Barnes, Chairman of the BBC Trust.
  • Nicholas Kroll, Director of the BBC Trust.
  • Anthony Fry, BBC Trustee.
  • Sir Michael Lyons, former Chairman of the BBC Trust.

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