The taxpayer-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been slammed by the National Audit Office (NAO) watchdog for wasting £874,000 of on a website that was later abandoned due to “serious technical difficulties.”
What went awry with the “transitional” website in May 2009 has not been explained in detail beyond the fact that a huge sum was spent on a project that, in the Commission’s internal view, “could not be restored or used further.”
“In discussions between the Commission and the GEO [Government Equalities Office ] on this matter, the GEO has commented that the website suffered from much ambition but poor specification, and that the understanding of what went wrong was not helped by incomplete documentation,” commented NAO Comptroller & Auditor General, Amyas Morse, in his latest financial report.
Further, because the loss was over £100,000, the write-off should have authorised by the Government Equalities Office (GEO), he added.
The NAO heavily criticised numerous other aspects of the EHRC’s financial behaviour, including the way junior members of staff were put in charge of expenditure, which suggests a lax culture at the organisation.
"In my last report on the Commission's accounts, I found that the weaknesses in its controls were deep seated, and that it would take time for the Commission to put in place rigorous controls and ensure that staff comply with them. My report today indicates that these problems did indeed extend into 2009-10," said Morse.
The EHRC lists its policy achievements for the year 2009-2010, the same period covered by the NAO report, on its website.