Spending row claims British Auditor General

Britain’s Auditor General, the man charged with stopping government waste, announced he is stepping down on Thursday after criticism of his own lavish spending on foreign travel and top-notch restaurants.

Sir John Bourn (73), who for 20 years served the British Parliament by making sure public money was not frittered away on frivolous projects, said he will retire as comptroller and auditor general next January to avoid a conflict of interest.

The announcement follows weeks of criticism of Bourn’s high spending, including more than £330 000 of taxpayers’ money spent on 45 trips to destinations such as Mauritius, Brazil and the Bahamas in the past three years.

Bourn’s wife frequently accompanied him on his first-class travels, including a weekend in Venice, although she didn’t go with him when he went to places such as Moldova and Kazakhstan.

In details released by Bourn’s National Audit Office last month in a bid to be open, it was also revealed that Bourn entertained the directors of accounting companies and defence contractors at hotels such as the Ritz, Dorchester and Savoy, spending $3 000 on meals alone in one six-month period.


Two weeks ago, Parliament opened an inquiry into the role of the Auditor General after the Guardian newspaper revealed details of Bourn’s expenses and the fact he received hospitality from firms such as BAE Systems, a defence contractor involved in a controversial Saudi Arabian arms deal.

The National Audit Office had defended Bourn’s spending, saying it was important that the he showed others the same hospitality that they showed him, and explaining that the Mauritius trip was part of a ”peer review” of auditors.

However, after the Guardian‘s revelations the audit office did announce that Bourn would no longer take first-class flights or travel with his wife without Parliament’s approval.

In announcing his retirement, the audit office said Bourn is stepping down to avoid a possible conflict of interest since he also serves as chairperson of the Professional Oversight Board. From next April, both the board and the National Audit Office will have a corporate auditing and oversight role.

”It would be incompatible for me to hold the positions of both comptroller and Auditor General and chairman of the board,” Bourn said in a statement. ”I have therefore decided to relinquish the position of comptroller and Auditor General at the end of January 2008.”

In the wake of Bourn’s retirement, the government said it will make ”legislative space available” to enact reforms to how the National Audit Office is run ”if necessary”.

It also proposed that Tim Burr, the deputy comptroller and Auditor General, take over from Bourn. That appointment will depend on parliamentary approval. — Reuters

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Luke Baker
Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Seventeen people found dead in East London nightclub

At least 17 young people were found dead at a nightclub in a township in the southern city of East London on Sunday, police said

Gauteng ANC produces solid financials, feather in treasurer Parks Tau’s...

The provincial administration has, however, struggled to pay staff salaries

Rwanda refugees fear extradition from Mozambique

Mozambique and Rwanda’s new deal comes after 19 people ‘agreed’ to return home

Zandile Tshabalala exhibits for the first time in SA with...

Pandering to the art world is no longer a prerequisite for success. Zandile Tshabalala has proved this in the last two years by exhibiting abroad before coming home

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…