Whistleblowers: BA to be probed on £2m award

November 28, 2003

Parliament's spending watchdog plans to examine allegations of "old-boy favouritism" at the British Academy following investigations by The THES .

The House of Commons public accounts committee has confirmed that the National Audit Office will conduct a routine inspection of the academy in the new year, and will look into allegations raised by The THES that it mishandled its Pounds 2 million centenary award competition.

Higher education minister Alan Johnson has also agreed to meet Sussex MP Norman Baker, who has taken up the concerns, to discuss the academy's accountability for its £13 million a year public funding.

The THES reported in June and August that the academy had attracted criticism over the handling of its centenary research project when it awarded £1 million to one of its own fellows and decided to withhold a further £1 million.

A Sussex University research team that reached a shortlist of three from almost 100 applicants cried foul.

Two sets of criteria for the award - one in its call for proposals and another when it announced the winner - were published. Documents that emerged from a data access request suggested that the academy had applied the latter set, which was not known to the applicants, which critics claim invalidates the whole competition.

The BA, said: "We shall be happy to answer all questions put to us and on the matter of the [Sussex] complaint, which we regard as without substance, we shall have a robust response to make."

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