Wales politics

New criticism of jailed ex-Wales auditor general Colman

Jeremy Colman Image copyright Other
Image caption A report found no further matters on Colman should be referred to police

A report has criticised the work record of Jeremy Colman, the former head of Wales' public spending watchdog jailed for downloading child sex abuse images.

It found in some cases he acted inappropriately in managing the Wales Audit Office and failed in some of his responsibilities as accounting officer.

Colman was jailed for eight months last November at the age of 62.

But the report found no further matters relating to his conduct should be referred to the police.

The findings of inquiries into Colman were presented to the Welsh assembly's public accounts committee by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) on Wednesday.

The report makes no criticism of Colman's input into the WAO's audit work, saying it was beneficial and strengthened reporting.

The purpose of the review was to provide assurances that no further significant matters of misconduct during his time in office needed to be addressed.

While none were found, the report criticises some aspects of Colman's management of the office.

Civil service pension

Much of the criticism in the report is of Colman's decision to award a £750,000 pay-off to the WAO's former chief operating officer (COO), Anthony Snow.

While the payment was legal under the civil service pension and compensation rules, two senior partners within the WAO said they had specifically asked Colman if Mr Snow had received a package and were told he had not.

The report found there were few records of the way the decision was taken, and says it seems clear Colman "deliberately instigated actions designed to minimise the visibility of the COO's package".

It adds: "In doing so he misled partners, staff, and the audit and risk management committee. He disregarded adopted governance arrangements, and failed in his accounting officer responsibilities."

In comments to investigators Colman said: "I do not agree that there was anything improper or questionable in the way I handled the COO's retirement arrangements". He specifically denied misleading anyone.

Committee chairman Darren Millar suggested AMs might wish to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service, but was told legal advice to the WAO said a prosecution would not succeed.

Current auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas, who gave evidence to the committee, said: "All I can say chair is that I specifically required that we sought legal advice and counsel advice and the comments in the report about action reflect the advice we have received."

In a covering letter to the committee, he wrote: "Many of the matters in the report are related to Mr Colman's management style.

"The report concludes that Mr Colman's shortcomings as accounting officer, and in his management of the Wales Audit Office, were due to a management style which lacked consistent, open communication.

"It also puts forward the view, which I would emphasise is strenuously denied by Mr Colman, that he focused on his independence as external auditor at the expense of his accountability in his role as accounting officer.

"Also, that he had an insufficient regard to the framework of internal and external governance arrangements applicable to his office."

Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood said: "I trust the recommendations will ensure that the auditor general is held fully accountable for the way the Wales Audit Office is run and that the days of lavish spending at the public expense are over for good.

"If that happens, public confidence will be restored."

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