Former SFO chief Richard Alderman to be questioned by MPs

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The Independent Online

Richard Alderman's tenure as head of the Serious Fraud Office will fall under the spotlight this week when he appears before the Public Accounts Committee.

The parliamentary spending watchdog will grill the former SFO director – who ran the agency between 2008-2012 – and his successor, David Green, on severance payouts handed to three executives last year.

These include Phillippa Williamson, its former chief executive, who was handed a "golden parachute" of more than £400,000 after taking voluntary redundancy from her job. The PAC is also likely to question both men on allegations of misconduct within the Serious Fraud Office.

Two government reports published yesterday raised questions about the SFO's operations. One described the SFO as an agency where the senior management "close ranks". "It has led in some cases to them trusting consultants more than SFO staff," the report added.

Last year, the National Audit Office ruled that the payoff given to Ms Williamson was "irregular" and said it was qualifying the SFO's annual accounts.

At the time, Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, described the payments as "completely unacceptable".

"The CEO [Ms Williamson] and SFO sealed the terms of this sweetheart deal outside of official Treasury procedures," she added last year.

"Despite now believing this payment to be irregular, the SFO is unable to cancel it or claw back the cash. The SFO showed a total disregard for taxpayers' money when they wrote out [this cheque] to the CEO and failed to provide valid justification for the payment."

The SFO said it had taken legal advice which concluded the money could not now be clawed back.