Senior civil servant who joined Greensill insists 'no conflict of interest'
The New European
- Credit: Parliament Live
A former government chief commercial officer who became an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant has insisted there was no conflict of interest, amid questions over the firm’s lobbying.
Bill Crothers told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) that his intention was to follow the rules “in spirit and in form” when appointed to Lex Greensill’s collapsed financial services firm.
Links between Greensill Capital, a company which was founded by the financier, the government and David Cameron have come under scrutiny amid controversy over the former prime minister’s lobbying on behalf of the firm.
Crothers began advising Greensill in September 2015 but remained in his Civil Service role until November that year, after which he carried on working for the financial services firm.
The businessman told MPs: “My intention was to completely follow the rules, in spirit and in form. I was transparent in all that I did and no conflict happened.”
Crothers, who had a long career at Accenture before moving to Whitehall, said it was always his intention to return to the private sector and that he had expressed this to colleagues.
He said that after eight years in the Civil Service, his initial plan was to leave the position of chief commercial officer and immediately contract back as an adviser, while becoming an adviser with Greensill.
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But Crothers said that the Whitehall ethics chief at the time, Sue Gray, advised that it would be more appropriate instead to become a part-time civil servant while taking on the Greensill role.
“In the press, the phrase ‘double-hatting’ has been used, and I just feel that is not appropriate – this was a transitional arrangement,” he told MPs.
Crothers said that at the time, Greensill did not have any public sector work and that his responsibilities in the Civil Service were amended after taking on the position at the private firm.
He said that he had discussed joining the board of Greensill with the late former cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who Crothers said had been “extremely positive” about the prospect.
“He said to me that Lex Greensill was a man of the highest integrity and he was supportive of me joining Greensill Capital’s board,” he added.
Crothers said that the endorsement from Sir Jeremy, who died in 2018, was “clearly an influence” in his decision to join the company as an adviser, a role which initially worked out one day a month.
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