Welcome to Yorkshire does not intend to publish the full versions of two independent inquiries into expenses claims and bullying allegations, with the embattled tourism agency instead planning to make public “a report outlining the key themes, findings and recommendations” from the investigations that are due to be completed this month.
In April, it was announced that every expense claim by current and former members of Welcome to Yorkshire’s senior management team and board made in the past six years would be scrutinised by forensic accountants in the wake of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity’s scandal-hit departure.
The inquiry – and a parallel one into the management culture at Welcome to Yorkshire – were ordered after Sir Gary’s resignation on health grounds on March 22 after allegations were made about his expense claims and behaviour towards staff.
At the time the inquiry details were announced, in addition to the resignation of chairman Ron McMillan, Welcome to Yorkshire said, “a report outlining the key themes, findings and recommendations will be made publicly available”.
Welcome to Yorkshire has now confirmed it is currently not planning to release the direct reports in their entirety, citing protecting the identities of witnesses and commercial sensitivities as reasons. A spokeswoman said with the investigations ongoing, the form the publicly-available report takes is yet to be decided.
The tourism agency is a private company but receives millions in taxpayer funding.
Accountancy firm BDO is conducting the expenses investigation, while Leeds-based solicitors Clarion is in the process of conducting the parallel investigation into behaviours and procedures at WTY. Two sources told The Yorkshire Post more than 50 people have contacted the Clarion investigation.
Susan Briggs, director of The Tourism Network, an organisation which advises hundreds of small businesses and tourism bodies in Yorkshire, said she believes as much of the reports as possible should be made public.
“I understand the sensitivities but how do you know what they choose to publish is the full information? One option ideally would be publishing the reports in full, removing the identities of individuals where needed. They need to do it in a transparent way,” she said.
She said if that course of action proved to be impossible, the reports could be provided to a trusted and neutral third party to confirm the public have been properly informed about what has been discovered.
Peer demands transparency
A Yorkshire peer said today he would push for “as full a public report as possible” to be released.
Liberal Democrat Lord Scriven, who has previously criticised the agency’s handling of Sir Gary’s departure, said the amount of money the company receives from the taxpayers means it should be treated in the same way as a public body.
“There are a number of public bodies who have got things wrong and been open and transparent about what independent reviews have said and what needs to change. They spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and we have a right to know what has happened.”