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In Safe Custody?

The former Auditor General for Wales, Jeremy Coleman, is serving an eight month prison sentence after indecent images of children were found on his computer.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Photo: David Morris)

He might now be in safe custody but as the Romans used to ask, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves?

In the case of the Wales Audit Office, the answer is two-fold.

The Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee regularly questions both the Auditor General and the public bodies he investigates.

In addition commercial accountants are employed as external auditors to check that the Audit Office’s own accounts are in order.

This morning the Public Accounts Committee questioned the accountants from KTS Owens Thomas Limited. The AMs wanted to know more about the pay-off that Jeremy Coleman had agreed for the Audit Office’s Chief Operating Officer, Anthony Snow.

The package was worth £750,000, largely because it included paying Mr Snow’s pension contributions for the next 10 years. But that cost has only become clear since Mr Coleman resigned.

Gareth Lynn from KTS explained that they had queried why the true cost of the pay-off had not been quantified and insisted that a note pointing this out was included in the Audit Office’s accounts.

AMs were not satisfied and demanded to know why KTS hadn’t insisted that the cost was properly calculated, or worked it out for themselves, or at least reported the matter to the Assembly.

Mr Lynn patiently explained that his job was to check that the Audit Office’s accounts were in order, that is to say they were properly presented, met international accounting standards and that they included a note identifying any unquantified liabilities.

He was not a lawyer and it was not his job to comment on the propriety of a legal binding agreement such as Mr Snow’s severance package.

AMs also heard from the new Auditor General, Huw Vaughan Thomas. He has completed his own investigation into the pay-off given to Anthony Snow and into management training costing nearly £40,000 that Mr Snow received during his time at the Audit Office. AMs will have to be patient however. They cannot see the conclusions yet, though Jermey Coleman is apparently busy in his prison cell reading what his successor has unearthed.

Acting on legal advice, Mr Thomas has written to his disgraced predecessor giving him the chance to comment before AMs discuss the matter further. They should get their chance next month. They are also looking forward to Mr Snow appearing before them in the near future.



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