Why does this man keep secret the pay and perks for people running David Cameron's taxpayer funded National Citizen Service scheme?
This is Michael Lynas. So far he has spent £475m of taxpayer's money as chief executive of the National Citizens Trust - a legacy project of David Cameron's government aimed at providing community projects to aid character building for 15 to 17 year olds across the nation.
His Linked In profile reveals that his sole qualifications to do the job are a four year spell as a consultant for Bain and Company and just under three years in Downing Street as a policy adviser to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. He is obviously conventionally bright having studied at Harvard and Cambridge.
Recently he appeared before MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee following a highly critical reportfrom the National Audit Office questioning whether National Citizen Service was value for money. The NAO pointed out that it was almost entirely funded by the state and the cost providing places on its schemes was very high. Also it has paid out money up front to organisations for places that were not taken up and was now trying to get the money back. I have written about this in Tribune magazine.
Indeed he was challenged by MPs about his ( lack of ) experience.This is the extract from the minutes:
Michael Lynas :"I have been involved in this now for eight years. I helped
to set up the first pilot. That is my ultimate experience. I have worked in
Government covering everything from the London 2012 Olympics to the same-sex marriage proposals when I was a senior policy adviser at No.10.
Chair ( Meg Hillier MP) : The same-sex marriage proposals, important as they were, are not quite the same things as running a contract with a big budget.
Michael Lynas: The Olympics had a large budget, obviously. When I was a management consultant for five years I looked at a whole range of projects, some of which were very large, but as I said, I have not managed something with this budget before."
But the MPs were also concerned about the complete lack of transparency in declaring the salaries of directors -including himself- and senior staff who are funded by the taxpayer. This is because the trust was set up as a community interest company by David Cameron - so it did not have to disclose any details of the pay or perks of directors or senior staff. Even though it was funded by you and me - the taxpayer.
MPs challenged him to publish the information and he agreed he could - but avoided pledging to do so. A flavour of the exchange can be seen here at the hearing.
Kevin Forster MP :"I have asked you if there is a legal bar to sharing that information and you have not said that there is.. .But you have said several times that you are waiting for the new Bill to go through. I accept that would be a new transition and structure but, if you want to sharei nformation and there is no legal bar to do doing so, and it relates to an
organisation that is taxpayer-funded, why don’t you do it?
Michael Lynas: I absolutely agree. I just thought it was a question about whether we did it under the auspices of the new arrangements or whether we did it before then. We can do it before then.
Mr Richard Bacon MP: This question of whether we do it under the old auspices or
the new arrangements: how profound is that question and how difficult to solve? Why does it matter? Why can’t you just do it, if it doesn’t make any difference? Are you familiar with the maxim, “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness”? Why don’t you just get on with it?"
An examination of the accounts and the original advertisement for the job of chief executive does reveal some information. Mr Lynas's original job was advertised at £120,000 a year. The accounts reveal that in 2015 the highest paid director ( and he is also a director) received £117,688 a year and £5775 towards his pension. This increased by nearly £20,000 to £137,253 in 2016 and to £6343 towards his pension. We don't know if that is him but it is very likely it is.
Total payments for directors increased by £45,000 in the same period from £466,608 to £511,182 whole pension contributions rose slightly from £23,025 ro £23,480.
Now there are 12 directors - eight are non-executive and four are executive - so you might assume they share this between them. But you would be wrong because one of them, Lord David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, has had to declare what he gets in the House of Lords register of interests - even if the trust wants to keep it secret. And guess what, he is doing it pro bono - not claiming a penny salary for sitting on the board.
And I would be willing to bet the other seven- Dame Julia Cleverdon former chief executive of Business in the Community ; Pippa Dunn, Nick Farnhill, John Hartley, Sue Gray.,( Director of Propriety and Ethics at the Cabinet Office) Martina Milburn, ( head of the Princes Trust) and Shaun Watling- may be in the same position.
These leaves another four executive directors to share the spoils ,Will Gallagher ( resigned last December);Doug Fraley ( resigned June 2015); Simon Jones ( resigned January 2016) and Natasha Kizzie in the previous financial year. Indeed the disappearance of so many executive directors seems to suggest another hidden story.
The accounts also reveal that in 2015 50 staff shared a £3 million wage bill. They are now over 100 staff.
The Trust will be forced to release information once a bill turning it into a public body goes through Parliament under Theresa May's government.
I asked for the trust to release these figures now and explain how much of the millions they lost on " ghost places" they had recovered. I got no reply - no doubt Mr Lynas was too busy to be bothered by pesky journalists.
But I might say when the public sector ( especially education) is being squeezed by cuts and wage freezes - the largesse shown to a few here is out of proportion. Unless of course the former PM arranged " mates rates" for the privileged few so they could help the underprivileged masses understand their role in society.