BBC reclaims Jana Bennett pay-off

Jana Bennett BBC paid a part of Bennett's redundancy in March

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The BBC gave Jana Bennett a £687,333 pay-off after she was made redundant from BBC Worldwide - money it reclaimed just last week from its commercial subsidiary.

The former director of vision, who transferred in 2011 to a new post at Worldwide as president of worldwide networks, was paid £404,000 for loss of office and £283,333 pay in lieu of notice (two months more than she was entitled to) by the corporation in March this year.

The BBC told the National Audit Office, which published additional findings on BBC senior manager severance pay on Wednesday, that there was an unwritten understanding that it would meet the cost of Bennett's redundancy if BBC Worldwide decided within two years that the role was unsuitable. Bennett, the BBC said, was unaware of the arrangement.

The corporation later decided, however, that it was not obliged to pay as the role was made redundant as part of a wider restructuring.

New severance figures

Bennett's pay-off was not included in the original NAO report - which was published in July and examined 60 of the 150 severance payments made to senior managers in the three years to December 2012 - as the 2013 payment fell outside of its remit.

The NAO, which was asked by the Public Accounts Committee to study the 90 cases beyond its original sample of 60, found that eight of the 90 senior managers were paid more salary in lieu of notice than required by contract at a cost of £143,000.

And five of the 90 received other discretionary payments - including additional compensation and car allowance payments - totalling £78,000.

In total, the Corporation paid out £1.9m more than necessary to 22 of the 150 senior managers who departed in the period covered by the report.

New BBC measures on pay-offs

  • A detailed business justification report for each severance deal
  • The report to record authorisers for each individual payment
  • All reports to be held on file for 10 years with Executive Board members' records to be held indefinitely
  • The BBC Senior Manager Remuneration Committee to sign off any payments in excess of guidelines

The BBC told the NAO that the additional payments were made to avoid potential disputes and delay as it attempted to drive down the number of senior managers.

One senior manager, who left the BBC with a £179,200 pay-off and £11,950 bonus for completing a project, also departed with assurance of 20 days' work as a contractor on a BBC project at a charge of £9650.

Pension boost

The additional findings also reveal that 38 of the 150 departing senior managers had their pensions boosted so that they could draw them early, costing the licence fee payer £3.8m.

The NAO flagged that in 18 of the 90 cases severance terms had been offered to senior managers before the proper approval had been obtained. In one case the departee had actually received £141,000 before authorisation had been given.

Once again, the BBC argued that this was to avoid delays.

'The results of our examination of a further 90 severance cases confirm the conclusion set out in our earlier report,' said the National Audit Office, 'namely that weak governance arrangements led to payments that exceeded contractual entitlements, provided poor value for money and put public trust at risk.'

Meanwhile, a separate report published by auditors KPMG on Wednesday, found that £1.5m was paid to senior staff between July 2006 and December 2009 in redundancy deals that went beyond contractual terms.

In an email to staff, Tony Hall said: 'The way severance payments were handled in the past was wrong - and I am determined to put that right.

'I have already put in place new measures, including a cap on redundancy pay. I have also asked Dame Fiona Reynolds, our senior independent director, to review severance deals agreed over the next two years. We will publish her findings in our Annual Report.'

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