|Patten leadership failures deplored in BBC payoffs scandal, UK lawmakers decry cronies
Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, who is chairman of BBC Trust that runs the UK-government broadcaster, has come under severe criticism for not challenging payoffs exceeding £25 million in the three years to December 2012 to executives who left the broadcaster whose reputation has been shredded over sex abuse scandals and shoddy reporting for which it had been sued by leading figures in London.
Lawmakers said the BBC Trust let down the taxpayers and that the “sweeteners’’ far exceeded contractual obligations.
During a number of crises last year and this year, including the scandals involving pedophile presenter Jimmy Saville at BBC, Patten has been condemned in the UK media.
In a report today, the lawmakers of the Public Accounts Committee, cited failures at “most senior levels,'' of BBC to challenge handsome payouts “and prevailing culture, in which cronyism was a factor that allowed for the liberal use of other people's money.’’
The panel expressed concerns over the waste of public funds.
Former director general George Entwistle was handed £470,000 after just 54 days. Former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson got £680,000 and deputy director general Mark Byford collected £949,000.
Panel chairwoman Margaret Hodge said that "150 senior managers between them received payments totalling £25m. We were dismayed to find that many of these individuals received 'sweeteners' in their severance packages that were far larger than the sums to which they were contractually entitled."
Thompson, who now heads the New York Times, rejected the report’s claims, in a statement cited by the Guardian.
"The members of the Pac are entitled to criticize the result, but the decision to make the settlement was made in an entirely proper and transparent way.
"Despite some inflammatory language in the Pac report, there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone at the BBC in relation to these severance payments."
The parliamentary panel added that by not challenging massive payouts, BBC Trust and its officials failed to fulfil one of its primary duties, which is to ensure the rigorous stewardship of public money.
The payoffs “exposed a dysfunctional relationship between the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust that casts doubt on the effectiveness of the BBC's governance model.''