Railway museum to overhaul training after cash inquiry

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one of the region’s leading museums is to overhaul staff training and procurement procedures after a Yorkshire Post investigation revealed it paid more than £25,000 to the husband of a senior curator.

An internal review was launched by the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York following the revelations in August that Adrian Ashby received in excess of £25,000 for work that included painting an engine due to be named after his wife, Helen, the head of knowledge and collections.

He was also given a contract to work on restoring the Flying Scotsman for which the NRM could find no supporting paperwork, and received contracts without competition from other suppliers. The payments included nearly £16,000 largely for Mr Ashby to drive an engine during the NRM’s production of The Railway Children, £9,300 of which was for trips to Canada when the play crossed the Atlantic last year.

The NRM announced yesterday the internal review had been completed and found there was “no evidence of impropriety”. But the museum now plans to revamp staff training to highlight a code of conduct and prevent conflict of interests. The NRM will also make extra checks on the “procurement and management of cumulative spend” with any one individual.

NRM director Steve Davies praised both Mrs Ashby, who he said is known for her “high moral values and public spiritedness”, and her husband who has “an excellent track record” for his work.

Mr Davies will step down at the end of this month to take up a new role as managing director of a leisure and tourism firm. But the museum has stressed his decision to leave is not connected with the inquiry.

During the review, the audit team examined invoices and paperwork and analysed the procurement process. The final report highlighted areas where “processes can be enhanced”, but stressed there was “no evidence of impropriety or evidence that this work was awarded to Mr Ashby due to the influence of his wife”.

The circumstances around an order for picnic food to the value of £84 from Ashby’s Delicatessen, formerly owned by Mr Ashby’s son-in-law, were also reviewed. Given the short notice and small amount, it was “not unreasonable” for the order to be placed, according to the report. The Yorkshire Post requested a copy of the full report, but the NRM declined to provide one.