THE BBC’s head of human resources has claimed that she “made a mistake” when giving key evidence to MPs about excessive pay-offs to departing executives.
Lucy Adams initially told the Commons Public Accounts Committee (Pac) in 2010 that she had not seen a crucial note detailing plans for controversial payouts to deputy director-general Mark Byford and marketing boss Sharon Baylay.
But three years later, she has now admitted that not only had she seen the memo, she also helped to write it.
Ms Adams, who announced last month she was quitting her post, claimed the error was caused by her failure to understand which document she was being questioned about by MPs.
In new written evidence published yesterday, she stated: “During the 10 July hearing, the chair referred to a memo of 7 October, 2010.
“At the time, I was not clear which document the chair was referring to and so I could not recollect with absolute certainty whether or not I had seen the memo sent by Mark Thompson to the then-chairman on 7 October, 2010.
“Since the hearing, I am now clear which document was being referred to and I can confirm that I was involved in drafting that memo, although I had not seen the final note sent to the [BBC] Trust until recently.”
The revelation is the latest twist in the deepening scandal over financial settlements to key staff leaving the corporation.
It came as BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said he was “looking forward” to appearing before MPs again next week after former director-general Mr Thompson accused him of misleading parliament over the pay-offs.
Mr Thompson, who left the BBC last year to take over at the New York Times, claimed Lord Patten and BBC trustee Anthony Fry told “specific untruths and inaccuracies” in earlier evidence to MPs investigating the controversial golden goodbyes.
In a written submission to the MPs, Mr Thompson insisted that Lord Patten had been “fully briefed” about the details of severance packages to Mr Byford and Ms Baylay.
However, speaking to the BBC yesterday, Lord Patten said he had “no concerns at all about the remarks”. He said: “I’m obviously going to save my remarks principally until I appear in front of the committee on Monday, which I’m looking forward to.”
Both Mr Fry and Ms Adams will also return before the Pac on Monday to face more tough questioning about pay-offs.
Ben Bradshaw, the former culture secretary and an ex-BBC journalist, said the ongoing saga highlighted the need for the BBC Trust to be scrapped, and for the corporation to be regulated by watchdog Ofcom.
He said: “I think this does raise a deeper and more fundamental problem, and that is the essential unsustainability of the current governance structure of the BBC and the fact you have this organisation, the Trust, which doesn’t really act as an effective regulator nor as an effective cheerleader because it’s expected to do both jobs in one.
“I do hope that the government will use this shambles as another reason for looking again at the governance of the BBC. It could be regulated by Ofcom – then it [the BBC] could have its own board and that would be a much more healthy settlement.”
Earlier this summer, the BBC admitted it “lost its way” on money paid to senior staff, after a damning National Audit Office report found £25 million was awarded in pay-offs in three years. The NAO said the broadcaster breached its own guidelines and “put public trust at risk” by authorising payments for 150 top staff, almost a quarter of whom received more than they had been entitled to.