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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions