NAO: SFO's redundancy package to former chief was 'irregular'

“Irregular” voluntary redundancy payments made by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to its former chief executive officer Phillippa Williamson have led the National Audit Office (NAO) to qualify its audit opinion on the SFO’s 2011-12 accounts.

By Joshua.Chambers

15 Nov 2012

An NAO report explaining the decision says there’s “no evidence” that when Williamson took voluntary redundancy from the SFO in April, the proper process of seeking other positions for her within the civil service had been followed.

The NAO also found that Williamson’s severance payment of £407,000, and an additional special severance payment of £15,000, had not – as is required – been approved by the Cabinet Office or the Treasury respectively.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said the SFO “entered into an agreement which forced it to make irregular payments. While positive steps have been taken by the incoming director, I have qualified the organisation’s accounts.”

At a Justice Select Committee hearing yesterday, the SFO’s new director David Green said it is “an organisation which needs to improve its performance”. He explained that since becoming its head in April, he has made a complete structural reorganisation of the office, building in quality controls and appointing a retired judge as a special adviser.

Although Green has commissioned an independent review into Williamson’s exit package, he admitted to MPs that another questionable redundancy payment has taken place. “There is another such agreement relating to an individual who will be named during this year’s accounts,” he said. However, he told MPs he has ensured “that proper procedures are followed” and thus the NAO should “not have concerns about this year’s accounts”.

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