Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Welsh public spending watchdog head Colman resigns job

Jeremy Colman
Jeremy Colman had agreed a further three year term from May 2009

The head of the Welsh public spending watchdog, the Wales Audit Office (WAO), has resigned with immediate effect.

Jeremy Colman had been Auditor General for Wales since 2005 and had been due to stay in post until 2012.

The WAO is responsible for ensuring value for money for more than £20bn of public funds, but an independent review last October criticised top managers.

It found "unhealthy tensions" between senior managers. An interim appointment is expected to be made.

Mr Colman was originally appointed for five years in 2005, but that term was extended in May 2009 for a further three years.

Since the process of selecting a permanent replacement will take several months, the assembly is likely to make an interim appointment to the post.

Unhealthy tensions

Mr Colman's resignation follows a recent expert review which criticised the internal management of the WAO.

The International Peer Review, published in October 2009, found unhealthy tensions between senior managers, perceptions of nepotism in decisions over allocation of staff to projects, and significant issues of trust and industrial relations.

The review found that the 12 senior managers had not formed a coherent leadership team, and warned there were clearly wider issues of staff trust and confidence in decision-making.

It said a spate of leaks of sensitive information had damaged the office's reputation and affected the day to day work of staff evaluating Welsh public services.

Caroline Gardner, who chaired the review panel, said at the time the WAO was delivering high quality work but was at a "watershed" and needed to make changes to respond to challenges.

Mr Colman at the time said he "wholeheartedly" accepted the recommendations and had already been making changes.

A spokesperson for the WAO said she couldn't expand on the statement, saying it was a "private matter" and it was up to Mr Colman to comment further.

The Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has responsibility for overseeing the selection process for the auditor general position.

Its chair Jonathan Morgan AM said he had been aware for "a few days" that the auditor general was considering his position but that he did not know why.

Mr Morgan said: "We don't know the reasons for the request from him to be relieved of his office. That is a matter for him and known only to him."

South Wales Central AM Leanne Wood said the resignation came as a "complete shock".

She said last December she obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act revealing that five managers at the office had been subject to disciplinary or investigative action following complaints by staff.

"I have previously called for an independent investigation into the running of the Wales Audit Office and I still believe that is necessary after Mr Colman's departure," she added.

The Welsh Local Government Association must be consulted on any proposed appointment.

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