BBC Chair made ‘errors of judgement’ in Boris Johnson loan affair: UK House panel

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London, Feb 12

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 UK parliamentary inquiry has found, according to 'Variety'.

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, 'Variety reports'.

A report in '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 Pounds [$990,000 ]" for Johnson.

According to 'The Sunday Times', Sharp was drawn into Johnson's finances while dining with the then 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, 'Variety' notes, appeared before a parliamentary inquiry convened by the DCMS Committee on February 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 didn't 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 and is quoted by 'Variety', pointed out: "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."

The report added, according to 'Variety': "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.... Mr Sharp should consider the impact his omissions will have on trust in him, the BBC and the public appointments process."

--IANS

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