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BBC Wales' Nick Palit
"Tom Arnold was facing possible disciplinary action"
 real 28k

Alan Williams MP
"This completely breaks the rules"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 13:50 GMT
Museum in pay-off probe
Payments to departing executive were "irregular" says report

An audit report has revealed that the National Museums and Galleries of Wales gave its assistant director a 30,000 pay-off instead of investigating allegations of mismanagement.

Head of the National Audit Office (NAO) Sir John Bourn said that an "irregular payment" was made to Tom Arnold in October 1998.

Mr Arnold's departure from the museum after 14 years service followed allegations of mismanagement, although these did not relate to any claims of impropriety or fraud.

Museum officials received legal advice and decided to reach a settlement rather than investigate the allegations made against him.

The settlement included compensation of 30,000 and a reference which made no mention of the allegations.

It was also agreed that Mr Arnold's legal costs would be paid up to a maximum of 1,450.

An investigation by the NAO established that written approval for the payments had not been obtained by the then director of the NMGW from the Welsh Office.

Current director of the NMGW Anna Southall was not told about the details of the payments when she took up her post in November 1998.

Ms Southall later applied for retrospective permission for the payments from the National Assembly, but this was turned down.

The report criticises the body for using tax-payers' money
A settlement which contained a confidentiality clause could not be accepted.

NAO chief Sir John Bourn said: "Public bodies should not use taxpayers' money to avoid dealing with alleged poor performance.

"I fully understand why the National Assembly was unable to grant retrospective approval for this payment.

"They, and the current museum director, acted correctly in their handling of this case after my staff brought it to their attention."

Swansea West MP and member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee Alan Williams said: "There's no doubt that this was an irregular payment. They knew it was outside the normal provisions.

"It's a serious matter and can't be ignored because we have to get the message to other organisations that they can't flout the rules."

NMGW president Mathew Prichard said: "We regret that the necessary written approval was not obtained from the Welsh Office in this case," he said.

"We have since carried out an internal reorganisation which will ensure that a similar situation will not recur."

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