POOR management and lack of control at the Sports Council have created a system which is wide open to abuse and corruption, it is claimed in a report published today.
The report from the National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, accuses the council, which operates the Bisham Abbey, Lilleshall and Crystal Palace sports centres, of not doing enough to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
It is almost certain to lead to widespread changes at the council, which is already in discussion with the Government over how to simplify its management structure.
Last year, said the NAO, the council had a total income of more than pounds 50m, of which pounds 48.8m came directly from the Government. However, despite employing only 434 people, more than pounds 20m was absorbed by staff salaries and other administrative costs, leaving just pounds 31.2m to be handed out in grants to sports groups.
The council is chaired by Sir Peter Yarranton, former president of the Rugby Football Union, and includes among its other 12 members the current RFU president, Ian Beer, Trevor Brooking, the former England footballer, and the Olympic gold medallist, Mary Peters.
Hayden Phillips, permanent secretary at the National Heritage department, which oversees the council, will be questioned on the severely critical report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee next month. MPs are expected to ask why the 14 council members claimed more than pounds 115,000 in expenses last year.
The council justifies the administration costs on the grounds that it is a countrywide organisation which supports many local authorities and voluntary bodies. It justifies …