Suite life of Heritage boss

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The Independent Online
IT SOUNDS like a cross between Antiques Roadshow and Sale of the Century. A Commons committee report released today reveals the bizarre story of the chief executive of English Heritage who sold office furniture to his employer - then bought it back minus pounds 950 for depreciation.

Among a catalogue of criticisms over the appointment of Christopher Green and his subsequent conduct, the Public Accounts Committee highlights the furniture sale, which involved a "conflict of interest which was not acceptable".

The saga began when Mr Green, a former InterCity executive, took over as chief executive at English Heritage in March 1995 and discovered that his office needed refurbishing.

Mr Green, who was vacating a flat in Edinburgh he had used for his previous job, offered to sell his furniture to English Heritage - including a dining table and six chairs, a coffee table, two sofas, an armchair, standard lamp and six cushions - to furnish his London office.

A proposed payment of pounds 3,762.50 from English Heritage was rejected, and Mr Green eventually accepted pounds 4,431 - equivalent of 70 per cent of the purchase price of the furniture.

When he resigned in July 1996 he repaid pounds 3,481 in order to take the furniture with him, the difference of pounds 950 representing depreciation during his time in the job.

The MPs' inquiry followed a critical report published by the National Audit Office just over a year ago. Their report suggests that Mr Green was not a suitable "accounting officer" for the quango - the person in a public body who is responsible to Parliament for the money spent.

They say departmental accounting officers - in this case from the then National Heritage Department (now the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) - should be more closely involved.

The MPs also attacked Mr Green's "deception" of the chairman of English Heritage over an advertising campaign which he authorised - despite a decision to the contrary by the Commissioners of English Heritage.

Other criticisms include the pounds 61,084 cost of recruiting Mr Green.

David Davis, the chairman of the PAC, said earlier guidelines from his committee had been breached. "The structures of governance ... were inadequate to cope when problems were caused by the personal conduct of [the] chief executive."