PAC blasts top FDs

The Public Accounts Committee has demanded the resign-ation of the FDs of the executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food after a #23.7m deficit in its accounts was blamed on poor software and BSE.

The National Audit Office qualified the Intervention Board?s accounts in February and blamed ?inexperienced? staff for the deficit. KPMG was called in to look at the accounts, the House of Commons committee heard last week, but MPs were not satisfied with how the firm was appointed.

PAC chairman David Davis said the accounts were a failure and accused the board, which administers #4.2bn of government agricultural spending, of downplaying the seriousness of the situation. ?This committee has serious problems with how the accounts were handled in general, the methods used for appointing consultants KPMG and the substantial fees paid to the firm,? he said.

Board chief executive George Trevelyan said the losses were due to software from Oracle, which crashed after five days, and to the cost of the mopping-up operation after the BSE scare. He admitted the board bought integrated accounting system software after advice from KPMG, but denied the firm was partially respon-sible for the losses.

He confirmed the board was continuing to use KPMG in the mop-up exercise. ?We are still heavily committed to Oracle and KPMG and have ongoing relationships with both. KPMG is helping to develop procedures to train staff for the mop-up,? he said.

Graham Jenkins, the board?s FD, and Robert Bryant, its chief accountant, admitted no steps were taken to pursue either Oracle or KPMG for the losses. Jenkins confirmed the board had paid #300,000 to KPMG for the clean-up operation so far, and expected the final bill to run into millions of pounds.

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