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  • Higgins on cue for jackpot finish to London 2012

    Posted on October 1st, 2009 admin 1 comment
    David Higgins hopes not to have trouble with the builders

    David Higgins hopes not to have trouble with the builders

    The subject of top officials’ pay is a constant one in the land of Freedom of Information – and the related topic of bonus payments for those individuals is even more complex.

    As the law stands at the moment a request for the salary details of a chief executive of a public authority or a chief constable will illicit the details. The total paid out as a bonus payment will also normally be revealed.

    But what at the moment is guarded with some ferocity is the requirements that the top person has achieved to warrant the payment of such a bonus payment. This will normally be protected by a S.40 (Personal information) exemption.

    My personal view is if somebody at the head of a large publicly accountable organisation is going to accept bonus payments then we the public should be made aware of what those targets are.

    Why? Well the objectives that a pay review body set a chief executive are strategic targets for the organisation as a whole and indicate to the paying public what are the priorities for that organisation might be – and perhaps more interestingly what are not deemed to be priorities.

    So I imagine that a chief constable’s bonus could be linked to the prevalence of knife crime and a hospital boss’s bonus to the number of MRSA infections.

    And because these are strategic targets that the organisation as a whole has to work to achieve I believe we should know which of the bonus elements a chief executive achieves, and which ones he or she falls short of reaching.

    In an attempt to push this point through I had been looking for the head of an organisation where a test case would help to establish this principle.

    Step forward David Higgins the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). His salary in 2007-08 was £373,000 to which was added a bonus payment of £205,000. Cynics among you might wonder how he can justify a £205,000 bonus when the games are still four years away. You might argue – and I have – that really he shouldn’t get a bonus until the final curtain comes down on London 2012 and we can then assess if he has done a good job.

    Well my appeal into Mr Higgins’ bonus payment and the targets that lay behind it is now sitting on the desk of the Information Commissioner and I’m hopeful they might issue a decision notice on the matter before the games actually start.

    But what has interested me now is the latest set of accounts for the ODA. In it Mr Higgins salary has edged up to £384,000 yet his bonus payment has dropped £100,000 to £105,000. This severe cut to his bonus is accompanied by an asterix* which further down in the document gives an explanation.

    It says: “For the financial year 2008-09, the Remuneration Committee determined that a performance related payment of £209,566 was the appropriate amount to recognise the Chief Executive’s performance. However the Chief Executive voluntarily deferred half of that amount until no later than December 2012, subject to the satisfactory delivery of the current programme scope within the maximum available budget agreed by the Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

    So, it would appear that although the ODA turned down my internal review for greater transparency of Mr Higgins’ bonus payments – some of my argument has been accepted, in that it’s ludicrous to award huge bonus payments to the person during the course of an ongoing project where the success can really only be assessed after it is finished.