Revealed: Serious Fraud Office chief who worked at home spent £100,000 on travel costs

Phillippa Williamson was allowed to run up bill in deal criticised as ‘quite astounding’ by MPs

Deputy Political Editor

Taxpayers spent £100,000 in travel and hotel costs for the former head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) after she was allowed a “quite astounding” deal enabling her to work part of the week from the Lake District,  MPs said in a report.

Phillippa Williamson also received a pension top-up of more than £400,000, even though the arrangement had not been approved by Civil Service chiefs.

In a stinging report published today by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), MPs  berate the SFO for presiding over a “catalogue of errors and poor judgement” in drawing up terms for senior staff. Ms Williamson, who stepped down as its chief executive in 2012 after four years, was responsible for the agency’s day-to-day operation.

However, she was authorised by the former SFO director, Richard Alderman, to work two days a week from her home in the Lake District. The taxpayer picked up the hotel and travel bills totalling £98,946 as she made the 550-mile round-trip each week for three days in the SFO’s central London headquarters.

Richard Bacon, a member of the PAC, said: “For the chief executive officer of an important public body such as the Serious Fraud Office to be granted such arrangements is quite astounding.”  The MPs also accused Mr Alderman of displaying a “disregard for the proper use of taxpayers’ money” by agreeing severance packages for three senior staff, including Ms Williamson.

She received £464,905, including an enhancement of £407,000 to her pension pot, without permission being given for the deal. The MPs said there was no evidence that the redundancy package was approved by the Cabinet Office. Christian Bailes was awarded £437,167 when he stepped down as chief operating officer, while Ian McCall picked up £49,885 when he left as head of IT.

The MPs said: “The former director’s decisions on redundancy and severance packages showed a disregard for the proper use of taxpayers’ money. Mr Alderman failed to follow due process by deciding the amounts in special severance packages and by not seeking alternative placements for staff.

“He ignored legal advice available to him and did not gain the necessary Cabinet Office and Treasury approval for payments. He failed to comply with the principles that should underpin the use of public money.”

The committee published a letter that Mr Alderman sent to it days after a gruelling evidence session before it in which he admitted it was “justified” in criticising his actions and offered his “deep and unreserved apology”.

The report found that Mr Alderman’s actions and decisions took place amid a culture where external advice and scrutiny was “to be avoided wherever possible” and with an “apparent need for secrecy”. It said: “This catalogue of errors amounts to a case study in how not to run a public body... We look to the Cabinet Office and the Treasury for safeguards to ensure there is no  repeat of this debacle.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us