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Be open on PS80k theft, BBC urged.

Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter martin.shipton@walesonline.co.uk

AWELSH Conservative MP has urged the BBC to publish details of a case in which an accountant it emplyed was able to steal PS80,000.

Oliver Ager, 35, who had control of programme budgets on Dr Who and Casualty, was said at Cardiff Crown Court to have committed the 17 fraud offences "in abuse of his position" with the BBC.

Ager, of Rock Avenue, Nailsea, Somerset, was said to have been dismissed from his job with BBC Finance and to have paid back PS30,000 of the money from his pension fund.

There was no order made over the remaining sum. He will serve half a two-year jail term in prison before being released on licence.

Asked to comment on the case, the BBC issued a statement which said: "When the BBC became aware of the serious allegations it contacted the police and began an internal investigation which led to Oliver Ager's dismissal in October 2012.

"Oliver Ager has since pleaded guilty to committing fraud and has now been sentenced.

"Since Oliver Ager committed these crimes the BBC has reviewed its cash processes and ensured that there is additional oversight to prevent a crime like this from happening again."

This newspaper sought to establish how it had been possible for an accountant working for the BBC to siphon off such a large amount of money, asking the BBC to release any internal investigation reports it had prepared.

We also pointed out that there had been an earlier example of substantial amounts of BBC money being unlawfully spent.

In 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that criminal charges would not be brought against Toby Grosvenor, who had left his post as head of operations at BBC Wales in April 2005.

He was a member of the management board and responsible for 330 operational staff at the time of his departure.

In 2002, Mr Grosvenor was questioned by South Wales Police investigating allegations of theft from the corporation.

BBC Wales said he had repaid PS315,000 since civil proceedings were originally issued against him.

The BBC has refused to expand on its statement about Ager's conviction.

Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns said: "The BBC have said previously that they want to be more transparent. This is an obvious example where they can be more open.

"I have led debates in Parliament calling for all invoices in excess of PS500 to be published and for them to be fully subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

"They have responded by saying that they plan to react positively but this is an example where they are not.

"This is a serious case involving public money. The information must be shared "There is a need for a clear change in culture. The BBC cannot continue on this basis."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 8, 2014
Words:488
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