NAO chief accused of ‘exploiting public purse’

A senior backbencher has made the first public parliamentary criticisms of
Sir John Bourn, the head of the
National Audit Office, over
the row about his expenses.

David Taylor, Labour MP for North West Leicestershire and a member of the
chairman’s panel committee, the senior group of MPs trusted to chair commons
committees, asked what was being done to get a grip on Sir John’s ‘flagrant
exploitation of the public purse’.

If the government did not get a grip, he added, ‘Sir John really will think
that in this government, there is one born every minute.’

Taylor’s comments are the first major public criticisms of Sir John by a
member of parliament. Politicans have managed the situation largely in private,
with the Public Accounts Commission moving to get a closer grip on the
comptroller general’s expenses.

Probing the situation in parliament, Taylor asked: ‘While I and other members
from the east midlands were on a nightmare journey to Westminster via a Midland
Mainline train with standing room only, and King’s Cross St. Pancras station was
closed, the head of the National Audit Office was purring from home to work by
chauffeur-driven car at the public expense, using a perk that is not even
recorded in NAO accounts.

‘Can the feisty chairman of the Public Accounts Committee get a grip on this
flagrant exploitation of the public purse by the comptroller and auditor

Answering the criticisms, PAC chairman Edward Leigh said the remarks did not
do Taylor ‘any credit’. ‘The fact is that Sir John Bourn has done an outstanding
job in parliament on behalf of the taxpayer for many years,’ said Leigh.

‘It is also important that we preserve the independence of the National Audit
Office. The car referred to by the Hon. Gentleman is provided by the NAO for its

Leigh said there was now a ‘transparent’ system in place to keep a watch on
Sir John’s expenses.

The row was provoked by revelations in Private Eye that Sir John had been
racking up huge bills on foreign travel that were not recorded separately in the
NAO’s accounts.

A spokesman for the NAO said: ‘The use of the car is in line with the
business of the NAO.’

To read the exchange, go to 

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