As families think about heading to leisure facilities this Easter Monday Bank Holiday, latest official statistics reveal how a controversial public figure in Wales who posted a picture of himself during lockdown on a golf course was paid a huge salary, and it has been condemned as a major misuse of taxpayers’ money, The Eye can reveal.
The annual Welsh Government budget for next year shows “Salaries and related pension costs of the Ombudsman” of £217,000, but our journalists disclosed how the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) Nick Bennett, had apparently classed a trip to a golf course as an ‘essential journey’ in the summer.
At the time UK Government advice was to:
- stay at home as much as possible
- work from home if you can
- limit contact with other people
One leading figure in Wales told us: “This is outrageous. I don’t want my taxes used in this way he (Mr Bennett) goes golfing and we pay him loads of money!”.
Yet his organisation declared on its website: “In line with all public services in Wales, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is closely monitoring the ongoing situation regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and managing the impact on our organisation, as well as on the key public services we work with”.
Mr Bennett, though, has been no stranger to unwelcome headlines in the past.
In October 2017 he engaged in a bizarre Facebook spat and the then Plaid Cymru AM (now party leader) Adam Price MS, who had said there was a “question mark” over his future when he appeared to want to expand his empire.
Mr Price accused him of “tacitly supporting” a proposal to abolish the Welsh Language Commissioner’s post, when Mr Bennett proposed he take over investigation of complaints about Welsh language services.
In a response to a consultation on scrapping the post, Mr Bennett had said he could resolve complaints sooner than with a system which included it, and he said it was “over-bureaucratic and complicated” and “can be wasteful”.
Before he became the PSOW Mr Bennett had been a business partner of Alun Davies’, MS at Bute Communications who has himself hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On July 8 2014 Mr Davies was summarily sacked from the Welsh cabinet by the then First Minister of Wales (FMW) Carwyn Jones following repeated written requests to his civil servants for the private details of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments made to opposition politicians.
Mr Davies (along with others) consumed wine during a meeting in the ‘tea room’ area of the Ty Hywel building, which is attached to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru WP/SC in Cardiff, following a full plenary meeting on December 8 – four days after drinking alcohol in hospitality venues was banned in Wales, and the Senedd Commission investigated.
Mr Bennett was also ‘special adviser’ to the former senior Welsh minister and AM, Liberal Democrat, Baroness Jenny Randerson.
But neither of these important facts which the public may be interested in was mentioned on his ‘Declaration of Interests’.
Mr Bennett was born in St Asaph but raised in Llangefni and Benllech, and celebrated six years in his post on July 31, and is now in the final 12 months of a seven-year appointment.
Mr Bennett has stated how important it is to be “fair, impartial and independent” but is plainly aggrieved at the “snail’s pace” of many of his investigations, and announced in the press: “It’s a frustration shared by a lot of my colleagues in the office”.
Perhaps taxpayers may also be frustrated that they are funding a £217,000 salary for a man who posted a picture of himself on a golf course during lockdown…
Tomorrow – we reveal more disturbing information about a conman who was jailed for years in America and exclusively exposed by The Eye, but was employed by a controversial Welsh university.
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (when he exposed the high salaries of controversial figures) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!