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Investigating governance at the National Citizenship Service Trust

Service Area: Criminal and Regulatory

Member: Jackie Berry

The Big Society organisation, of which former Prime Minister David Cameron is chief patron, is being investigated for the mismanagement of millions of pounds at the National Citizenship Service Trust (NCST).

The investigation in to “governance issues” at the Trust is being carried out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which says that a former protégé of David Cameron, Michael Lynas, was awarded an “unacceptable” exit package, including £15,000 to help him train for a new job after he left his £150,000-a-year post as Chief Executive.

Mr Lynas was due to stay in post for a few more months and be retained as a paid consultant but left at the end of February and was replaced by Waitrose executive Mark Gifford.

According to a piece in the Sunday Mirror, the Trust, which was set up in 2011 to arm teenagers with life and work skills and has an annual budget of around £180 million, has been plagued by criticism in recent years.

For example, it was alleged that Mr Lynas was ‘parachuted in’ to the post despite being underqualified for the job.

The Mirror also claims that some £10 million for unfilled citizenship training places is missing for 2018 and that as much as £20 million is outstanding for other years.

The DCMS has stepped in and forbidden the Trust to use any money on Mr Lynas’s learning and development and insisted that his departure must comply with HM Treasury guidance on managing public money.

A robust governance policy is key to ensuring that financial mismanagement does not take place and the investigation will no doubt look at the various relationships within the Trust, as well as its finances.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “A significant amount of public funding has gone into this organisation and it is clear that the Government is concerned about how this money has been managed.

“The Trust is bound by strict public spending rules and governance procedures, which will be at the centre of investigations by the DCMS that will look into how funding has been used and what it achieved.

“This kind of investigation is vital to ensuring that publicly funded organisations make the best use of the resources with which they are provided.”

Author: Roger Isaacs
26 March 2020