BBC chair Richard Sharp made “significant errors of judgement” when he did not declare his role in the facilitation of a loan in 2020 to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a U.K. parliamentary inquiry has found.
Sharp, a banker and former chair of the Royal Academy of Arts, was appointed in January 2021 on the recommendation of Oliver Dowden, then Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) secretary, and Boris Johnson, who was still Prime Minister at the time.
A report in U.K.’s The Sunday Times in January alleged that Johnson put forward the recommendation just weeks after Sharp “helped to arrange a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000 [$990,000 ]” for Johnson.
According to The Sunday Times, Sharp was drawn into Johnson’s finances while dining with the Prime Minister and businessman Sam Blyth, a friend and “distant cousin” of Johnson’s. The report stated that Blyth had agreed to act as a guarantor for the loan and wanted Sharp’s “advice on the best way forward.”
Sharp appeared before a parliamentary inquiry convened by the DCMS Committee on Feb. 7 and said: “I’ve never given the [former] Prime Minister advice. He’s never sought it. I know nothing about his personal financial affairs.”
The committee, which also interviewed Sharp prior to his appointment as BBC chair, established that Sharp had effected an introduction of Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and repeatedly asked him why he did not disclose the matter during the interview.
Sharp in turn repeatedly said that he was following “due process.”
The committee report, which was published on Sunday, said: “Richard Sharp’s decisions, firstly to become involved in the facilitation of a loan to the then Prime Minister while at the same time applying for a job that was in that same person’s gift, and then to fail to disclose this material relationship, were significant errors of judgement, which undermine confidence in the public appointments process and could deter qualified individuals from applying for such posts. Mr. Sharp’s failure to disclose his actions to the panel and the committee, although he believed this to be completely proper, constitute a breach of the standards expected of individuals applying for such public appointments.”
“The fact that ministers have cited this committee’s original report on Mr. Sharp’s appointment as a defence of the process was followed, when we were not in full possession of all the facts that we should have had before us in order to come to our judgement, is highly unsatisfactory. Mr. Sharp should consider the impact his omissions will have on trust in him, the BBC and the public appointments process,” the report added.
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