Resignation of chief legal ombudsman over expenses
25th Nov 2014
The chief legal ombudsman, Adam Sampson, has resigned after an investigation into expenses.
Sampson has left his £161,000 post after being suspended last week following an investigation into ‘governance issues’, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
He has held the position for more than five years, but now Sampson is quitting over a dispute into unpublished accounts for the organisation from 2013/4. Due to be published in June, they have not yet appeared. Last week, the Legal Ombudsman’s office stated that the accounts were finished, and had been filed for approval with the National Audit Office (NAO) and MoJ.
Sampson had authorisation from the Office for Legal Complaints to claim for trips from Birmingham, his workplace, to London, and is estimated to have claimed around £20,000 in travel expenses over the five years. He informed the Law Society Gazette that when he visited London, Sampson stayed in his family home, and stayed in hotels in Birmingham at his own expense. Sampson added that this arrangement ‘saved money for the service’, and continued for four years before any concerns were raised. However, NAO has termed the arrangement ‘novel and contentious’, stating that Sampson had claimed for travel between home and work.
City firm Simmons & Simmons launched an investigation into Sampson and found that ‘he had not acted improperly’. However, despite the fact he has ‘not been dishonest’ and that his integrity is ‘intact’, Sampson has chosen to resign in order to maintain the ombudsman’s position as a ‘figure above controversy’. He added that he did not wish issues surrounding his work and the accounts to ‘distract from the tremendous work that the organisation does’.
An MoJ spokesman has confirmed that Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary and formerly at the Ministry of Defence, will temporarily act as accounting officer for the Legal Ombudsman.