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Whitehall watchdog will investigate BBC chairman’s appointment amid Johnson claim

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The public appointments watchdog will investigate the selection of BBC chairman Richard Sharp amid concerns over his role in helping Boris Johnson secure loans.

The Commissioner for Public Appointments, William Shawcross, said he had to review the way the post was contested to ensure compliance with Whitehall rules.

Earlier Mr Sharpe announced he was referring his appointment to the BBC Board’s nominations committee following claims of a potential conflict of interest.

In a letter to Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell, who raised the matter with him, Mr Shawcross said he had asked the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to send the relevant papers.

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I intend to review this competition to assure myself and the public that the process was carried out in compliance with the Government’s governing code for public appointments.

“The role of the commissioner is to oversee the process of public appointments and ensure that appointments are made fairly, openly and on the basis of merit,” he said.

“I intend to review this competition to assure myself and the public that the process was run in compliance with the Government’s governance code for public appointments.”

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Ms Powell welcomed the announcement, saying Mr Sharpe and the government “obviously have questions to answer”.

Mr Sharp said: “I welcome any review clarifying my role in this matter.”

Sarah Healey, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who chaired the panel that interviewed Mr Sharp, told MPs: “We have received a request for documentation (from Mr Shawcross), which we are pleased to- Will give happiness.”

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She told the Public Accounts Committee that candidates for public appointments were asked several questions about conflicts of interest and that apart from Mr Sharpe’s political donations “no other conflict declarations were made”.

Earlier, Mr Sharp had insisted he was “not involved in making loans or arranging guarantees” for the then prime minister, but admitted the controversy was a “distraction” for the broadcaster.

He told BBC staff members that his role was to “seek an introduction” to Sam Blyth, who allegedly acted as guarantor for a loan to Mr Johnson, to a “relevant official in government”. .

He said: “This matter, although it happened before I joined the BBC, is a distraction to the organization which I am sorry for. I am really sorry for all this.”

Mr Johnson, who was responsible for Mr Sharp’s appointment, insisted that Mr Sharp had no knowledge of his personal finances, dismissing them as “a load of absolute rubbish”.

Mr Sharp was in the process of applying for the chairmanship of the BBC when he made the introduction and was subsequently appointed to the role in the corporation.

He said: “I was not involved in giving loans, or arranging guarantees, and I did not arrange any financing. What I did was to introduce Sam Blythe (sic) to the relevant official in government.

She said Mr Blyth – a distant cousin of Mr Johnson whom Mr Sharp had known for more than 40 years – “had become aware of the financial pressures on the then Prime Minister, and being a successful entrepreneur, he told me he Wanted to explore. Can he help”.

Mr Sharp, who has been working as a special adviser to the Treasury in Downing Street during the pandemic, briefed Cabinet Secretary Simon Case on the situation.

“I went to meet the Cabinet Secretary and explained who Sam was, and that as a cousin of the then prime minister, he wanted to help him if possible,” Mr Sharpe said.

This is complete nonsense – complete nonsense

“I also reminded the Cabinet Secretary that I had submitted my application for the post of BBC Chairman.

“We both agreed that, in order to avoid any controversy, I should take nothing further from the matter. At that time there were no details about the proposed arrangements and I had no idea whether Any assistance is possible, or may be agreed upon.

“I have had no involvement with any process since that meeting. Even now, I don’t know much about loans or guarantees reported in the media.

In his message to BBC staff, Mr Sharp said he had asked the nominations committee of the corporation’s board to look into the matter to ensure that “all reasonable guidelines have been followed since I joined the BBC”. Has gone”.

Mr Johnson tried to play down the controversy, telling Sky News: “It’s complete nonsense – complete nonsense.

“Let me tell you, Richard Sharpe is a nice and intelligent man, but he doesn’t know a whole lot about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding dang sure.

“This is another example of the BBC missing its core principle.”

The saga surrounding Mr Johnson’s personal finances was reported in the Sunday Times and seized upon by opposition MPs.

Mr Blyth, a Canadian education entrepreneur, said the guarantee he provided was less than the reported amount of up to £800,000.

He told the National Post in Canada, “The guarantees that were provided were much lower than reported and were pre-approved by the Cabinet Office and Ethics.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the BBC chairman went through a “rigorous” and transparent recruitment process.

He said: “This appointment was clearly made by one of my predecessors before I became prime minister.

“The appointment process itself to appoint the BBC chairman is rigorous, it is independent, has two stages, is transparent and is published online.

“Mr. Sharpe’s appointment went through that whole process.”

The Liberal Democrats said Mr Johnson’s £115,000 allowance for running his office as former prime minister should be withdrawn until he answers questions about his financial arrangements.

The party’s chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “Boris Johnson has a dismal track record of avoiding investigation and covering up his lies and deceit. We know he is only interested in chasing money, so it is time he Let him hurt where it hurts – his wallet.

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke defended Mr Sharpe, telling LBC it was important to see how he performed in the role.

“Is he doing a good job as chairman of the BBC and is he fighting for the independence of the BBC? And if he is, so be it.”

Sir Peter Riddell, a former Commissioner of Public Appointments, suggested that there could have been more transparency in the matter.

He told Times Radio: “I think perception is really important in all these things.

Sir Peter said that if there was prior knowledge of an issue, it would “act as reassurance so that you would recognize there was a potential conflict”.

“Whether there was – which he denies – is a matter for the inquiry to establish.

“But I think it would have been in everyone’s best interest to have had a lot more transparency at the outset.”

(Tags to translate) BBC

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