We are aware of the Environment Committee’s letter to the Finance Committee. The majority of the issues raised are simply flawed and inaccurate and we do not accept them. The content and tone of the letter are also wholly misleading. The Minister for Natural Resources and Food will be writing to the Chair of the Environment Committee shortly to address the issues raised.**
The evidence provided by the Natural Resources and Food department was late, often contradictory and far from transparent. As a committee, we were unable to scrutinise properly due to the quality of the evidence.The Minister’s budget included a number of basic errors, such as referring to schemes and policy areas that have ceased to exist. While this is embarrassing and shows a lack of competence, far more worrying was the level of financial management evident in the department as a whole.
The Minister seemed unable to give sufficient information on a large range of issues, resorting instead to partisan hectoring and references to the Westminster government. Evidence that he did give was often contradictory to what his officials had to say. That just isn’t good enough.
Perhaps if the Minister spent more time treating his position with the professionalism and respect it deserves, rather than engaging in tribal politics, some of these serious concerns might not have arisen.
The letter from the committee's chair, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, has been sent to the Assembly's Finance Committee and follows a recent evidence session with the Minister. It criticises both the evidence and says that led to wider worries:
When the Minister gave evidence to the Committee it was felt that he did not give sufficient information or adequate clarity on a range of issues. On occasion, the responses we received were in direct contradiction to the information provided in the written papers. This is indicative of the concerns we have about the general financial management and planning of this Department.
The committee's scrutiny was, says the letter, 'hampered by the lateness of the budget paper' leaving members less than 48 hours to prepare. It also highlights 'a number of basic errors...including references to the True Taste Awards which were disbanded earlier this year.'
These concerns all suggest to us that the financial management and planning within Natural Resources and Food is currently flawed, and that it needs to improve as a matter of priority.
– Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability committee