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Costly dispute at Amgueddfa Cymru reveals weakness in Welsh Government’s management of public bodies

26 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Kennixton Farmhouse at St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff. Image: Seth Whales

Problems at the very top of one of Wales’ most prominent national institutions have revealed significant weakness in the way public bodies are governed.

The Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee is extremely concerned about governance arrangements at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales which failed to resolve a dispute between two senior people – the former President and Director General – at a £40,500 cost to the Welsh Government.

In total, the pay-outs to individuals and the legal costs of numerous tribunals have cost the public in excess of £750,000.

The issues were examined by the Committee as part of their scrutiny of Amgueddfa Cymru’s accounts for 2021/22 which is published today, Wednesday 26 June. On the same day, a petition calling for increased funding for heritage and history institutions, including Amgueddfa Cymru, will be debated in the Senedd after gathering over 12,000 signatures.

Failures in governance

During scrutiny of Amgueddfa Cymru’s accounts for 2021/22, the Committee was alarmed by evidence of failings within the organisation’s internal processes. It raises questions about the Welsh Government’s involvement in the saga and how it intervenes when such issues arise at publicly funded institutions.

Mark Isherwood MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee said: “The Committee is deeply concerned about the processes employed during the dispute between the former President and Director General, particularly the interactions between Amgueddfa Cymru and the Welsh Government. It is evident that further measures are necessary to prevent a recurrence of such issues at any public body.

“The processes in place at the time where wholly inadequate and the matter should have been resolved at the earliest opportunity, avoiding significant unnecessary costs. The fact of this failure is amplified today, considering the grave financial problems facing Amgueddfa Cymru.”

The President’s new role

The Committee questions the Welsh Government move, in the wake of the dispute, to appoint the former President, Roger Lewis, to a new role leading a governance review at Cadw. Whilst acknowledging that the former President was not found to have breached the terms of his appointment, the Committee is concerned about the transparency of the process.

Committee Chair, Mark Isherwood MS, said: “The Committee questions the rationale of this appointment, within the same culture and heritage sector, given the issues at Amgueddfa Cymru. A more robust appointment system is required by Welsh Government, with increased transparency and accountability around appointments like these in the future.”

Future challenges

A new Chair and new Chief Executive have been in post at Amgueddfa Cymru since September and November 2023 respectively. It is acknowledged that Amgueddfa Cymru is now fully focused on the significant challenges it faces for its future, which are a cause of great concern for the Committee.

Mark Isherwood MS, said: “It is concerning to hear about the challenges facing Amgueddfa Cymru in meeting budgetary pressures, which is likely to lead to a significant loss of jobs at the organisation, as well as a risk to our national collections and sites of national importance.

“In future scrutiny, the Committee will want to know how Amgueddfa Cymru is responding to these pressures, and how the Welsh Government is going to safeguard these vitally important sites and collections.”

The Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee has published its scrutiny of Amgueddfa Cymru’s accounts for 2021/22 and the report is available online.

The Petition Committee’s debate about future funding for heritage institutions such as Amgueddfa Cymru will take place in Plenary on the afternoon of Wednesday, 26 June, and is available to watch live on senedd.tv

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We thank the committee for its report and will review its findings carefully.

“The settlement in question delivered a reasonable outcome as quickly as possible and avoided the need for a protracted dispute which would likely have resulted in a greater cost to the public purse. Lessons, however, have been learned from the situation at Amgueddfa Cymru.

“We are supporting Amgueddfa Cymru as it continues to move forward under the leadership of the new Chair and Chief Executive. This includes responding to the recommendations made by the independent tailored review panel.”


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Another Richard
Another Richard
18 days ago

It would be helpful to include a link to the report. While the article says it is published on line I have spent about a quarter of an hour searching the Senedd website and cannot find it.

It would be interesting to know what lay behind the clash of personalities which may or may not be the cause of the problems at Amgueddfa Cymru and which seems to have brought the museum to its knees.

Mark Mansfield
Admin
18 days ago

Hi Richard. That should have been in the article. The report has been added now.

Another Richard
Another Richard
18 days ago
Reply to  Mark Mansfield

Thank you, Mark

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
18 days ago

Amateur and Solicitor Politicians…eh!

And who pays…

We do, financially and democratically…

Alun
Alun
18 days ago

Public money, these people couldn’t care less.

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