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NAO to investigate BBC pay-offs
The public spending watchdog is to investigate BBC severance packages after it emerged almost 200 senior managers received pay-offs of more than £100,000 each in the past three years.
The National Audit Office (NAO) will examine the situation after MPs said pay-offs for senior BBC figures had been "excessively generous".
The investigation was sparked after George Entwistle, the former director general, stood down over the Jimmy Savile scandal with a £450,000 pay-off - double the amount he was entitled to. The probe also comes after parliament's Public Accounts Committee criticised the BBC's use of licence fee payers' money as "cavalier" and "out of line with public expectations".
The committee's chair, Margaret Hodge, hit out after hearing that 10 other leading figures at the BBC received severance packages in the past two years which together amounted to £4 million. The largest was the former deputy director general Mark Byford, who was given £949,000.
An NAO spokesman said the decision to look at BBC severance packages was taken in the light of Mr Entwistle's departure. The NAO wrote to the BBC asking if it should specifically examine Mr Entwistle's pay-off and report to the Public Accounts Committee before it deliberated recently.
But the corporation asked it to investigate severance packages as part of the NAO's wider 2013 programme of studies, as the NAO - which scrutinises public spending on behalf of parliament - does not have the power to carry out stand-alone "incident" studies.
Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws show that between 2010 and 2011 the cost of redundancy payments at the corporation more than doubled to £58 million. A total of 14 executives received pay-offs of more than £300,000 each, worth a total of £6 million, while 194 executives got £100,000 each.
Caroline Thomson, the former chief operating officer at the BBC, was given £670,000 when she left the corporation earlier this year. The Telegraph also reported that an unnamed finance officer was given a £420,000 pay-off, while Sharon Baylay, the director of marketing, was given a £392,000 pay-off.
A corporation spokesman said: "The BBC is in the process of reducing its senior management numbers, which have come down by around 25%, and senior management pay bill, which has come down by around 30%. Some of this has been achieved by redundancy. While these redundancies involve costs in the short-term, in the long-term they represent savings for the corporation as these roles are not replaced."
A spokesman for the BBC Trust added: "The chairman previously suggested that it would be useful for the NAO to look not just at the package George Entwistle received, but at severance pay in the BBC more widely. We have received their schedule of work for 2013 and we are pleased to see that they will take this approach in a planned review for next year."