West Yorkshire police have requested “further information” after the release of the independent report into Welcome to Yorkshire’s expenses scandal.
CEO Gary Verity resigned from the tourism board in March earlier this year, which alongside ASO organises the Tour de Yorkshire, citing health reasons, admitting he had “made errors of judgement regarding his expenses”.
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The findings of the recent independent investigation identified £26,000 of expenses had been claimed for “personal” items without a business justification. £25,800 of this total were claims related to Verity and the 55-year-old has since voluntarily repaid £25,000 to the organisation.
Accountancy firm BDO, the review’s investigators, were unable to evaluate whether £900,000 worth of expenses claimed over six years were “reasonable” due to a lack of transparent spending rules. Keith Stewart, who is acting interim chair of Welcome to Yorkshire, says the amount of expenses claimed by Verity over the six-year period is considered to be a six-figure sum.
Welcome to Yorkshire, a private company, is funded by public sector organisations, with total money put into the organisation running into the millions.
The review was initially set to focus on the past six years, but BDO later decided to focus on the last three years “when it became clear there was a notable increase in the number and amount of expenses in the latter three years”.
Alongside questions raised regarding expenses, concerns were also made in relation to Verity’s behaviour towards staff, although Welcome to Yorkshire said these matters were not directly linked to his departure.
A former personal assistant to Verity, Annie Drew, said he would “shout, scream, swear and throw things sometimes at people”. She also claimed she was asked to make expense claims in her name on his behalf – an allegation that has been strongly denied.
Welcome to Yorkshire said Verity had been invited to participate in the investigation, which he had expressed an interest in doing, but ultimately decided he was not in a position to do so at the time.
A spokesman for Verity said he was “voluntarily assisting” the investigations, adding: “While the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment extensively, but he can confirm that he completely rejects Annie Drew’s suggestion of false expense claims which, even on what has been explained of her version of events, do not amount to a coherent account.”
Stewart said at the time of the report’s release: “As the interim chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the organisation to those who have been affected by actions and mistakes made. Where we have let people down, we are truly sorry.
“Clearly both reports have identified a number of areas which require improvement and instances where the leadership of the organisation has fallen short of the high standards not only we, but our brilliant team, members, funding partners and stakeholders expect. We have taken immediate steps to remedy this.”
West Yorkshire Police will continue to assess the findings of the independent investigation, and its consideration of the inquiry is still ongoing.