Overview: Livingstone’s ‘piggy bank’ in the middle

Accountants may not be the best people to judge art, according to London’s
Mayor ­
but unfortunately for Ken Livingstone they are pretty good at spotting flaws in

accounting processes.

Following a scathing documentary by Channel 4’s Dispatches
programme and an investigation by Big Four firm Deloitte, the London
Development Agency, dubbed ‘Ken’s Piggy Bank’, has come under fire for poor
accountability and transparency, especially in its funding of arts projects.

It’s going to be down to Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat chair of the London
Assembly’s economic development, culture, sport and tourism committee to sort
out the mess that has been dredged up, and the outcome of a certain upcoming
mayoral election could well hang on how speedy repairs can be made.

What has happened:

Problems arose for the LDA with a double whammy from some painful
investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches, and a Greater London
Authority-commissioned report from Deloitte into where the body’s money was
going. Deloitte red-flagged flaws in the body’s processes, with many companies
receiving money from the LDA not filing accounts and there being little record
of how the money had been spent.

Controls around the £18.5m worth of grants handed out to art projects were
highlighted as a major area of controversy, causing Livingstone to retaliate
furiously with the line: ‘accountants aren’t the best people to make a value
judgment about what is good art’.

The mayor’s office has continued to defend its position and resisted calls
for the resignation of Livingstone’s race adviser Lee Jasper (suspended at the
weekend), who had been accused of trying to pressure LDA officials into handing
over money to projects with which he was associated.

Doocey has accused the LDA of ‘breathtaking incompetence’ but seriously
doubted that the scandal arose from criminal actions.

What’s going to happen:

Despite attempts to play down the issue by the mayor’s office, there is no
doubt the issue is a serious one that is proving incredibly damaging to the
London Development Agency, the Mayor and the Greater London Authority.

If Deloitte’s findings are accepted, there is much work to do to restore
The public has been assured that new measures are set to be put in place, but
Doocey will be at the forefront of the movement to ensure that there are cast
iron checks and balances, a strong audit system and appropriate monitoring in
place for future grants.

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