Auditor to criticise Dome director's disclosure of affair with designer

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The Independent Online

A former director of the Millennium Dome is expected to be officially censured for failing properly to register her affair with a designer who won contracts worth £27m.

A former director of the Millennium Dome is expected to be officially censured for failing properly to register her affair with a designer who won contracts worth £27m.

Independent auditors have found that Claire Sampson, the former production director at the Dome, did not inform her superiors in writing of her short relationship in late 1999 with Tim Pyne, who had won contracts for four of the 12 zones at the attraction in Greenwich, London.

The claims of a potential conflict of interest arising from their affair have been studied by auditors from the accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as part of a wider investigation into contractual and financial problems affecting many of the 2,800 contracts at the Dome. The bill to correct these problems could be £12m.

Ms Sampson, 33, told Jennie Page, then chief executive of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), about their affair in person when it began in August 1999. But the PwC investigators believe that under civil-service rules, she should have set that out in writing.

That finding also suggests Ms Page, sacked in February after visitor figures plunged, will be formally criticised for failing to fully enforce disclosure rules.

The assessment will be handed to David James, the NMEC's executive chairman, within the next week, just before the National Audit Office publishes what is expected to be a damning report into rising costs and mismanagement of the Dome.

The PwC inquiry has focused on allegations that Mr Pyne, 39, won four contracts between June 1997 and July 1999, for the Living Island, Work, Learning and Shared Ground zones, despite having insufficient relevant experience and apparently having only a dormant company called Vamp.

Mr Pyne dismissed claims that he had no proper experience. Among a number of projects, he was leading designer at the Daily Mail's Ideal Home Exhibition for 1995, 1996 and 1997, the 100% Design exhibition at Earls Court for four years. He also said he had not run his earlier projects through a limited company but through through architectural partnerships.

Mr Pyne and Ms Sampson denied any wrongdoing and they both insisted that she had no part in awarding any of the contracts.

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