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Alderman apologizes for unauthorized payouts

The former director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office wrote a letter of apology last week to the lawmakers who had criticized his handling of severance payments to at least three SFO staffers.

Richard Alderman said he should have obtained higher approval for the payments.

He said he also regretted not apologizing to parliament’s public accounts committee when he gave testimony on March 7.

His appearance before the committee was characterized then as adversarial and hostile when he defended the payments.

In a letter reviewed last week by the Guardian newspaper, Alderman told Margaret Hodge, the chair of the parliamentary committee, that ‘I … have come to the view that the committee were justified in making those criticisms. What I did on the key points singled out by the committee fell short of what the committee are expected to receive from an accounting officer.’

‘The purpose of this letter,’ Alderman said, ‘is to give you and the other committee members my deep and unreserved apology for the way that I handled these exit agreements.’

Alderman headed the SFO for six years until his departure in April last year. During his final month in office, he approved exit and severance payments to three staff members amounting to about £1 million.

Although most of the payments were for civil service retirement pay, they also included some discretionary severance amounts that needed higher government approval.

Alderman told the committee earlier that the payments were intended to avoid litigation. He said he was unaware at the time that higher approval for the payments was needed.

‘My failure to ensure personally that all of the relevant consents in these important issues had been given and documented fell well short of the standard that the committee are entitled to expect from an accounting officer,’ he said in his letter.

‘I am sorry that I did not recognize this earlier and give you my apology at the hearing,’ Alderman said.

A full report from the Guardian is here.

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