No further police action over BBC pay-offs

'Insufficient evidence' of criminal misconduct says Met police as Tory MP lambasts 'incompetent HR management'

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard will take no further action over allegations linked to severance payments and benefits for senior BBC managers.

The force was looking at allegations of misconduct in a public office and fraud but announced today that there was "insufficient evidence of dishonesty or criminal misconduct to begin a criminal investigation".

Conservative MP Rob Wilson had asked the Met Police to consider an investigation after a National Audit Office (NAO) report identified cases where the BBC made payments of hundreds of thousands of pounds even though executives were not always entitled to the money.

The BBC spent £25m on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff in a three-year period up to December, according to last month's NAO report, and since 2005 has made payments totalling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Service received allegations of misconduct in a public office and fraud in relation to severance payments and wider benefits for senior BBC managers.

"These allegations have been carefully assessed by officers from the Fraud Squad, Specialist, Organised and Economic Crime Command.

"The assessment, of available material, has concluded there is insufficient evidence of dishonesty or criminal misconduct to begin a criminal investigation, and the MPS will not be taking any further action."

The BBC said the severance deals had produced savings of £19 million per year.

A spokesman said, "BBC director-general Tony Hall has already said the BBC lost its way on severance pay and has capped any future deals at a maximum of £150,000 as a result."

Mr Wilson said it was "regrettable" that there would be no police investigation.

He said: "The public and ordinary BBC staff will find it galling that no one will be held individually responsible for this gross misuse of public money.

"This was a case of BBC managers putting their hand in the public purse and splashing out pay-offs on to their departing colleagues. At best, it was seriously incompetent HR management.

"There were about 40 people involved in signing off the pay-offs - about one in 600 of the BBC's employees. The BBC knows who these people are but has refused to take any disciplinary action against them.

The NAO report that prompted Mr Wilson to contact the police said that the payouts had "put public trust at risk".