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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pay-off of the Quangos

This morning's Western Mail reports that golden goodbyes to senior WDA executives were 'hidden' by the Assembly Government after it promised scrapping the agency was not about cutting jobs:

Redundancies were supposed to be avoided when the WDA merged with the Welsh Assembly Government, but in 'a significant' number of cases staff were given high severance payments. This happened in contravention of procedures agreed with the unions.

The report continues:

'a significant number' of WDA employees were given ad hoc redundancy payments before the agreed merger process had even been implemented.

This has not been reported to AMs by the Assembly Government, which yesterday denied that there was anything irregular about the redundancies and said payments had been scrutinised.

But a source close to events said, 'It would appear that hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxpayers' money has been paid out in contravention of the agreement that staff would be redeployed.

'This was not supposed to be a redundancy situation, and there were no agreed criteria to determine who should go. This seems to have been done on an ad hoc basis, arousing concern about why certain people were given severance payments, some of whom have gone on to very well paid jobs elsewhere with no time gap.'

Ironically, this was precisely the sort of situation that helped the First Minister make his name as an MP back in the 1990s, when he led the charge against irregular payments made to an earlier generation of WDA employees.

In this instance the Assembly Government are arguing that these payments have been the subject of scrutiny by the WDA Audit Committee, Internal Audit and Wales Audit Office. I do not believe that the Rhodri Morgan of the 1990s would have accepted that this was adequate in terms of transparency and accountability then, I am sure he does not expect us to accept it now.
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