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Finance chief embroiled in ferry fiasco firm's bonus payments row quits

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THE chief financial officer of Ferguson Marine who is engulfed in a row over £87,000 in bonus payments to managers has left the nationalised shipyard.

It has been confirmed that George Crookston - one of those who benefitted from the bonus scheme - left his post in mid February, after being appointed in March 2020.  He is also no longer a member of the board, which serves as its governing body.

Mr Crookston, received incentive payments as part of the controversial bonus scheme of approximately £17,500 in 2021/22.

That was on top of a remuneration package made up of approximately £122,500 in salary and £6500 in pension benefits.

It is understood that Mr Crookston has taken on a job as chief financial officer with the Scottish Fishermen's Organisation.

Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine would only say that Mr Crookston "tendered his resignation in November 2022 and left in February 2023".

Ferguson Marine: Extra £25m of public cash injected over ferry fiasco

The revelation comes after the deputy first minister John Swinney described the bonuses in the wake of a failure to complete long-delayed lifeline ferries as "reprehensible".

It comes as it emerged that due to "persistent design gaps and build errors" progress there have been further delays and cost surges related to the completion of two lifeline ferries.

Glen Sannox and Hull 802 were due online in the first half of 2018 when Ferguson Marine was under the control of tycoon Jim McColl, with one initially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, but they are at least five years late. The last estimates suggested the costs of delivery has more than quadrupled compared to the original £97m cost.

Glen Sannox is now scheduled for autumn 2023 rather than the end of May 2023 as previously estimated, with what Mr Swinney described as a "contract backstop" of no later than the end of December 2023.

The second vessel, only known as Hull 802 is now not expected to set sail till the autumn of 2024 having already been delayed to the end of March 2024. The contract backstop was stated as being at the end of December 2024.

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine admitted 'significant doubt' over ScotGov firm future

Concerns about the bonus payments were made by Scotland's public spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

They were paid to six senior managers at the Ferguson shipyard firm.

Mr Crookston was the only member of the Ferguson Marine board to get the controversial bonuses.

Other senior managers who received the performance-related pay have not been identified.

According to Audit Scotland, there was no requirement to disclose this separately.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said it was "unacceptable" that the money had not been cleared by the Scottish Government.

According to company auditors, the employment contracts for the senior management team when Ferguson Marine came into public ownership in late 2019 contained a clause entitling staff to a performance related bonus of up to 20% of their base salary per year.

Audit Scotland says that payment was approved by a remuneration committee made up of the chairman of the Ferguson Marine board Alistair Mackenzie, the controversial turnaround director Tim Hair and two unidentified non-executive directors. It is understood Mr Crookston was not on the committee.

The public spending watchdog said that the committee approved the payment based on a paper prepared by Mr Hair.

This recommended that 7.5% should be paid on the delivery of milestones determined by Ferguson Marine.

The remaining 10% paid was discretionary based on performance.

Audit Scotland raised concerns over the bonus payments saying it is "not clear" how their performance was assessed, nor were appropriate frameworks and governance in place.


They said there was no performance management framework of key performance indicators (KPIs) which set out how performance would be assessed or measured.

A letter from the turnaround director confirmed this performance related bonus was payable as a result of the structural completion of the hull on vessel 801.

"There was a lack of transparency and good governance around the assessment and approval of these payments," Mr Boyle said. "Ferguson Marine was unable to evidence the evaluation over the discretionary element of this payment.

"The Scottish Government was not made aware of these bonus payments, and they were not subject to approval by the sponsor department.

"I would consider it as a matter of good practice and governance for Ferguson Marine to have sought advice and approval from the Scottish Government in this case."

There had previously been concern over the "severe mismanagement" of the shipyard partly due to the £2565-a-day being given to Mr Hair a Gloucester-based businessman, in a deal established by ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay.

Mr Hair, who had led the business since August 2019 and implemented a major transformation programme, departed in February last year following a short handover period.

Ferguson Marine had since appointed David Tydeman as its new chief executive officer to lead the business to "sustainable growth".

He said the current board of directors and the remuneration committee "accepted the feedback from the Auditor General over performance incentives paid to senior managers for the financial year to the end of March 2022.

It has previously been revealed that the taxpayer-supported nationalised shipyard firm has been sanctioned twice over its financial dealings before facing moves to be closed.

Ferguson Marine, which was taken over by the Scottish Government four years ago after its financial collapse under Mr McColl were due to deliver accounts on December 31.

But there were delays in delivery to Companies House, the UK Government executive agency which oversees the incorporation of firms across the nation.

That triggered a "strike off" process which could have seen Ferguson Marine and three other allied companies that are trying to deliver two long-delayed lifeline ferries formally closed.

Ferguson Marine confirmed the problems related to audit issues that were beyond their control and Companies House has confirmed that the strike off process has been cancelled, while the firm pledged to lodge accounts by the end of this month.

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