Quangowatch: No 5: The Welsh Development Agency

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The Independent Online
What does it do? Attracts investment to Wales, clears derelict land and encourages the growth of local businesses.

Budget: pounds 170m (about pounds 70m from public funds).

Who appoints its board? The Welsh Secretary.

Controversy one: Its chairman was Gwyn Jones, a businessmen, appointed by Peter Walker, a former Welsh Secretary, after meeting him at a Conservative fund-raising lunch. He resigned from his pounds 40,610, part-time job last June ahead of a Commons Public Accounts Committee report that condemned the agency for: giving out illegal redundancy payments costing pounds 1.4m; allowing free private motoring for board members; appointing a discharged bankrupt as marketing director who was later jailed; and flying directors on Concorde. Dr Jones, who was told to repay the agency pounds 3,379, was made chairman of the Welsh Broadcasting Council (salary pounds 15,140) and a BBC governor.

Controversy two: Philip Head, WDA's pounds 71,000 a year chief executive, resigned after the report. He was made head of property for another quango, the Further Education Funding Council of England (salary pounds 46,000).

Are things getting better? Last month staff passed a motion of censure against management for not following a recommendation of Sir John Caines, a former permanent secretary in the Department of Education, that senior jobs in the agency should be advertised rather than given out in secret.

Accountability. No directly elected members. Press and public do not have access to meetings and papers.

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

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