Quango Watch: A guide to those unelected quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that run our lives. No 10: Office of Water Services (Ofwat)

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What does it cost? Pounds 9.66m a year.

What does it do? The Director General, Ian Byatt, a former Treasury civil servant, and his regional consumer-service committees are charged with ensuring that the privatised water companies carry out their functions and operate economically.

Who appoints them? The Secretary of State for the Environment appoints the DG, who appoints the committee members.

Such as? Jim Gardner, chairman of the Northumbria committee, a lifelong friend of Mr Byatt's. David Edwards, chairman of the Eastern committee, a director of the John Laing construction company, which is working on pounds 10m of contracts for Anglian Water, giving rise to charges of a conflict of interest; Mr Edwards said he was not involved in the contracts and the accusations were 'laughable'. Anthony Clothier, chairman of the Wessex committee, who is Mr Edwards's brother-in-law. Judith Rees, chairwoman of the Southern committee, who is a paid consultant to Ofwat. Elizabeth Monck, wife of Nick Monck, a former Treasury colleague of Mr Byatt's.

Criticism one: Has failed to stop the very highly paid former public servants given the task of running the now-private water companies from over-charging consumers (see page one).

Criticism two: Diana Scott, chairwoman of the Yorkshire committee, was sacked last month by Mr Byatt. She opposed his support for water metering, which will leave many with higher bills, and said Yorkshire reports were changed by Ofwat head office to make them more 'acceptable to Byatt's line'.

Accountability? No elections. No surcharge of members who misuse public money. Public and press have no access to meetings in, and documents from, Ofwat headquarters.

Send details of any quango you feel to be behaving improperly to Quangowatch, the Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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