I was disappointed to read criticism of Auditor General, Sir John Bourn in today's Mail on Sunday. I know Sir John (not well) but he has always struck me as a man who did a tough job with a human touch. I recall a period when a Quango I chaired was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee - which had been advised by Sir John Bourn. At the time I felt very hard done by, but not by Sir John, who did a very fair job. But that's not the issue today.
It seems that Sir John has taken 43 overseas journeys over the last 3 years, at a cost of £336,000 - to outline the role of 'audit' in government. £76,000 of this has been costs incurred by Sir John's wife, who accompanied him on 22 of those trips. Its easy to shout "Shock, Horror" as at least one MP has done - but the question is whether this cost is reasonable. I can imagine much tut-tutting over this but I don't think it is unreasonable.
The UK has a lot to teach the world about how to 'govern' and it is a thoroughly good thing that we spread our democratic principles around. There is no-one better qualified than Sir John Bourn to do this and I applaud his willingness to take on such an incredible amount of overseas work. I also think it is reasonable that spouses be encouraged to go as well - and be paid for if they work. Today's MoS attack was an unfair cheap shot.