Headlines: February 26th, 2002

As furore over the departure of senior civil servant Martin Sixsmith continues at the DTLR, details have emerged of ministerial involvement and public expense in another high profile exit from public service.The National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that the former Chief Executive of Sport England was paid off at a cost of nearly half a million pounds because Minister for Sport Richard Caborn MP wanted a change at the top.

Mr Derek Casey, who had spent 12 years at the Sports Council and Sport England, left with the salary from the remainder of his three year contract and a substantially enhanced immediate pension at 51.

The NAO report says that originally Department officials advised the Minister the post was a matter for Sport England, but the Minister became personally involved in meetings about the departure, which was then agreed and announced in a press notice.

Only later did Department officials review the package and refer it to the Treasury due to concerns at its scale.

The NAO report says that in the end, it went ahead because to pull out after the announcement could have led to legal action. The Treasury formally advised the Department to refer the case to the National Audit Office, which has published its findings, but has not found any evidence of any financial wrongdoing.