Questions remain about a costly employment dispute at Museum Wales

Published 09/11/2023   |   Last Updated 09/11/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

The Welsh Government was party to the settlement agreement with the former Director General at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales and the case raises serious questions about its governance of arm’s length bodies, says the Senedd’s Public Account and Public Administration Committee.

The Chair of the Committee has responded to a report published today by the Auditor General for Wales which highlights weaknesses in governance and relationships at Amgueddfa Cymru, relating to a dispute involving the former Director General, David Anderson, and former President, Roger Lewis.

It is also critical of the decision-making process for a settlement payment of £325,698 to the former Director General.

The Committee share the Auditor General’s concerns, and in the coming weeks will be demanding answers from the Welsh Government about its involvement in the saga, as well as questioning the new Chair and Chief Executive about restoring stability and driving improvements at the museum.

Mark Isherwood MS in the Siambr

Mark Isherwood MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee said:

“For some time, the Committee has been concerned about the way a dispute at senior levels of Amgueddfa Cymru was allowed to play out, and the processes which eventually led to its costly resolution. This damning report by the Auditor General confirms our fears.  

“Our greatest concern, as the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee, is the cost of all this to the public purse.

“The total cost of the settlement is still unclear, but the Auditor General’s report suggests it will exceed £750,000, when legal and advisory fees are considered, with £325,698 of this awarded to the outgoing Director General.  

“It is worrying that the dispute was not resolved more quickly and resulted in such staggering cost, some of which could have been avoided .  

“The Auditor General’s report raises many issues about governance that the Committee want to seek answers for in our scrutiny sessions on 16 and 29 November.

“We have previously raised concerns about the Welsh Government’s management of its arm’s length bodies and whether the procedures to ensure reporting of contentious issues has worked. We want to know how events were allowed to unfold under the Welsh Government’s watch, and what it will be doing to avoid it happening again with any of the bodies under its responsibility.

“We were first alerted to concerns regarding governance arrangements at the museum in January 2022. Whilst this dispute played out, the impact must have been felt by staff and hampered the institution’s progress and delivery of service to the public.

“Amgueddfa Cymru is one of our leading institutions, at the centre of Wales’ heritage and culture. At the Committee’s next meeting, we will want to know how the new Director General and President plan to bring stability to this invaluable organisation and restore its reputation.”

On Thursday 16 November, Amgueddfa Cymru’s current Chair, Kate Eden, and Chief Executive, Jane Richardson, will appear before the Senedd’s Public Account and Public Administration Committee. It is the first time they will face scrutiny by the Committee and it will seek assurance on how they plan to move forward and rebuild confidence in the Museum.

The Welsh Government will face scrutiny by Committee on Wednesday, 29 November, to answer questions about processes for dealing with issues at institutions like Amgueddfa Cymru and other arm’s length bodies.