The Comptroller and Auditor General, Amyas Morse, has today qualified his opinion on the 2013-14 Accounts of the Office for Legal Complaints on the grounds of regularity. This is in part owing to expenses paid to its Chief Executive, the former Accounting Officer of the body, which were not retrospectively approved by the Ministry of Justice.
The National Audit Office was alerted by an anonymous correspondent to concerns about the remuneration and expenses of the OLC’s Chief Executive. These concerns had also been raised anonymously with the OLC, Legal Services Board and Ministry of Justice who had started to look into them. Following questions raised by the NAO, the OLC and Ministry conducted a detailed review of the remuneration, expenses and benefit payments of senior staff since the OLC was created in 2009.
The review identified a number of payments which the C&AG considers to be novel and contentious and which were not retrospectively approved by the Ministry as follows:
- expenses (totalling £20,752) paid to the Chief Executive which were for travel from home (in London) to work (in Birmingham);
- travel expenses and other expense claims that were not supported by sufficient evidence to confirm they were for legitimate business purposes (£1,580);
- the payment of an extra-contractual ‘Total Remuneration Supplement’ to the Chief Executive and other senior members of staff (£348,109); and
- payments made under a Flexible Benefits Scheme to the Chief Executive and all members of staff (£874,940).
The OLC is now reviewing all key financial processes and controls to ensure no other issues exist. The Ministry determined that the Chief Executive was not a fit and proper person to continue to hold the position of Accounting Officer and he had his accounting officer delegation removed on 8 January 2015. The failure to maintain a high standard of financial management in relation to his own expenses was a significant factor in this decision. He has been suspended as Chief Executive since 19 November 2014.