Audit Commission chair to go

9 Aug 01
Dame Helena Shovelton's annus horribilis came full circle this week when the government announced it would not re-employ her as chair of the Audit Commission.

10 August 2001

Shovelton issued a one-line statement in response to the news. 'I'm naturally disappointed not to be reappointed but I've always been a very independent person,' she said.

Shovelton will leave her post at the end of November when her three-year contract is up. The decision, revealed on August 6 by local government minister Nick Raynsford, rounds off a turbulent 12 months for her.

First, she was forced to resign as chair of the Lottery Commission in October 2000, after the High Court overturned its decision to reject Camelot's bid to renew its lottery contract. Then, in February this year, a decision she took with her colleagues on the Competition Commission to block the merger of two brewing companies was also overturned on appeal.

An Audit Commission source told Public Finance that Shovelton's high-profile blunders over the past year had influenced ministers' decision not to offer her a second term. The Audit Commission board is appointed directly by Transport, Local Government and Regions Secretary Stephen Byers and Health Secretary Alan Milburn.

'Ministers could decide to reappoint her or could decide otherwise. They decided otherwise. It could certainly be construed that she is being got rid of, not necessarily because of her work at the Audit Commission but her other hats, not least the National Lottery,' the source said. 'She has only been in the job three years and people in these positions are often in post a lot longer.'

Shovelton faced a storm of criticism last year after the Lottery commissioners decided to reject Camelot's bid for the next seven-year contract and instead negotiate only with Richard Branson's People's Lottery consortium, despite being unhappy with both bids.

The judge who heard Camelot's appeal, Mr Justice Richards, condemned the decision for being 'conspicuously unfair'. The commission was forced into a humiliating climbdown and eventually awarded the contract to Camelot.

A DTLR spokesman would not be drawn on the reasons for Shovelton's departure. 'She has come to the end of her three-year term and that is all I can say,' he said.

The vacancy will be filled through open competition and should be advertised shortly.


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