BBC inquiry on contract allegations

THE BBC has launched an inquiry into allegations that senior BBC executives have improper business connections with outside companies that have won lucrative contracts from the corporation, writes Andrew Gliniecki.

It was alleged yesterday that one manager used BBC facilities to further private business interests abroad and that he awarded thousands of pounds worth of consultancy work for the corporation to a close friend.

According to an investigation by the Sunday Times, members of one department also accepted 'all-expenses-paid' overseas trips from companies with BBC contracts. The involvement of outside companies has increased as many of the BBC's internal services have been privatised.

A BBC spokesman said yesterday that it was 'actively investigating' the claims, which include the suggestion that complaints highlighting the activities of some staff were not properly looked into.

The inquiry provides further ammunition for critics who question the corporation's ability to manage itself. At the end of last year the BBC admitted that it had overspent its budget by at least pounds 58m. This was blamed on a 'series of reporting and control failures arising from the complexity of television's financial procedures'.