Maria Miller calls for spending watchdog to look at BBC books "without hindrance or delay" (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Maria Miller calls for spending watchdog to look at BBC books "without hindrance or delay"
SCRUTINY of the BBC needs to be tougher after what has been an ‘annus horribilis’ for the corporation, according to Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
The Basingstoke MP said she wanted a system where the National Audit Office (NAO) was allowed access to the BBC ''without hindrance or delay''.
In the last two years, auditors from the public spending watchdog have had greater freedom to deal with the BBC but still have to agree subjects in advance with the corporation and do not have the flexibility to react to events.
Speaking to an audience of industry insiders at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge yesterday, Mrs Miller said the appearance of seven senior BBC executives - past and present - before the Commons Public Accounts Committee on Monday was ''a grim day for its senior management''.
The committee hearing was called after the latest controversy around executive pay, where £60 million was paid to outgoing executives over an eight-year period, including more than £1 million to former deputy director general Mark Byford.
Mrs Miller said criticism of the BBC Trust - the corporation's governing body - was similar to that previously aimed at the BBC governors.
She said: "This criticism focused on insufficient independence and a lack of clarity over the separation of roles. Does that sound familiar?"
Mrs Miller, who said changes had been made by new director-general Tony Hall, said it was ''no good waiting until a new charter in 2017 to act''.
She said: ''As you would expect, given all of these changes, I will continue to keep the BBC's structures and effectiveness under review.
“These are significant changes. Ultimately, licence fee payers rely not only upon the right structures and governance being in place but also upon the BBC's executive management using their good judgment. And I think serious questions were raised about that judgment by the scale of the severance payments made.”
Mrs Miller said the NAO's work had been "pivotal in bringing issues to light" and criticised the fact it was stopped from immediately looking at the pay-off package for former director-general George Entwistle, who left the BBC in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.
She said: “I want a system where the NAO can look at any area of concern without hindrance or delay.”
In conclusion, she said: ''This has been an annus horribilis for the BBC. But we all know that institutions can recover and come back stronger from years like that. The BBC will bounce back.”
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