BBC chief made £4,878 expenses trip to World Cup

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The Independent Online

BBC deputy director general Mark Byford spent almost £5,000 flying to South Africa for a World Cup Final visit at the weekend, expense claims showed today.

The executive also used the visit to hold meetings with bodies such as Fifa, which invited him, as well as visiting news bureaux in the region, the BBC said.

The £4,878.57 cost of the business-class fare is revealed in a new batch of expense claims by senior figures which were published today.

Mr Byford, whose flight was booked last December, took a further return flight to Nairobi in Kenya during his visit which cost £582.50.

The claims also show the BBC's chief operating officer Caroline Thomson claimed £3,389.69 on taxis during a three-month period for the first quarter of this year. The figure is the equivalent of just over 23 licence fees, which currently cost £145.50 annually for a colour TV.

BBC controller of vision Jana Bennett claimed £2,736.02 on taxis during the claim period.

And the BBC's director of future media and technology Erik Huggers made taxi claims for £2,940.98.

Explaining Mr Byford's trip, a BBC spokesman said: "Mark Byford was invited to the World Cup Final by Fifa as part of his responsibilities, which include BBC Sport.

"During his stay, he had meetings with various organisations including Fifa, as well as visiting the news bureaux in South Africa and Nairobi. During his visit he stayed in accommodation that was already being used by BBC Sport for the World Cup and not in a hotel.

"In line with BBC policy, he travelled business class as he was going straight into a series of meetings."

The total taxi bill for Mr Huggers, Ms Thomson and and Ms Bennett came to more than £9,000.

Between them they spent an average of more than £100 a day on cabs during the first three months of the year.

A BBC spokesman said: "Taxis are used when they are the most efficient option and allow executives the opportunity to work en route."

The latest round of expenses come at a time when the BBC has been reviewing its strategy and making efficiency drives, including cutting the total pay bill for senior management by 25%.

Earlier this month, BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons said "tough choices" were ahead and the BBC could not take it for granted that viewers would be willing to pay more each year.

Sir Michael highlighted the importance that the BBC "demonstrates to the public who pay for it that it is spending their money with care".

BBC director-general Mark Thompson filed a claim of £1,696, which he said was for the "congestion charge for the year".

He also spent £690.56 in external hospitality for a business dinner for 12 in San Francisco and in January he made a return flight to Los Angeles costing £5,742.70.

The figures also showed that Ms Bennett spent almost £600 at glitzy award ceremonies over the latest period.

This included an external hospitality claim for £426.40 at the Royal Television Society Awards and £157.50 for internal hospitality at the Women in Film and Television Awards.

BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan spent more than £1,000 on business lunches and meetings.

BBC4 controller Richard Klein's gifts and hospitality register included two tickets for the musical Oliver! in January from Griff Rhys Jones, who has starred as Fagin.

Mark Linsey, controller, entertainment commissioning, spent £534.09 on an "end-of-series thank you lunch" and £473.70 on external hospitality at the National TV Awards.

He spent £153.84 on a "meeting with talent" about The Apprentice and £277.03 on external hospitality relating to the BBC's Over the Rainbow series.

His minicab journeys included separate sums of £228.84, £150.19, £115.90, £110.37, and £114.37.

BBC Audio & Music director Tim Davie made a £22 taxi journey due to a "time constraint" and a £5 one because he was "carrying bags".

He also clocked up around £900 on hotels in the London area during the period.

Under his "gifts and hospitality", BBC North director Peter Salmon entered four tickets to see Strictly Come Dancing's live show at the O2 Arena, courtesy of BT.

He said he made a face value donation to Sport Relief.

BBC North's chief operating officer, Richard Deverell, spent £10 on a taxi because he was "late" and a £6 one because he was "V late".

Roger Mosey, director, London 2012, claimed £240 for "four days allowance for expenses at Winter Olympics".

Mr Huggers also took flights between London and Los Angeles costing more than £6,000.

In an explanatory note, he said this included three separate flights and was part of a round trip to the United States "re partnerships and development of BBC's digital services".

The BBC's chief financial officer, Zarin Patel, spent more than £200 in internal hospitality on a "debrief post-meeting".