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BBC under fire over severance payments

UK spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has found the BBC paid senior managers more than they were entitled to in severance pay, costing license fee payers “at least £1 million (US$1.5 million)”.

The report, which was presented to the finance committee of the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, criticised the public broadcaster for breaching its own policies on severance “too often and without good reason”, claiming that the BBC “exceeded contractual entitlements and put public trust at risk”.

The NAO said that in 14 of 60 cases it reviewed, the BBC paid senior managers more salary in lieu of notice than they were contractually entitled to – including two cases where the BBC knew that departing executives had new jobs lined up.

“The BBC Trust paid the former BBC director general George Entwistle £475,000 after announcing his resignation. This included three weeks’ salary worth £25,000 that was not part of his severance payment of £450,000,” said the NAO.

Concluding that severance pay to BBC managers “provided poor value for money” the NAO recommended that the BBC should increase scrutiny of severance payments that differ from standard entitlements.

In spite of this, the report did find that between August 2009 and December 2011, the BBC exceeded its target of cutting 20% of its senior managers and said that, overall, the estimated £188 million in savings the BBC made from senior manager redundancies exceed the £60 million cost of severance payments.