A SETTLEMENT following a bullying row at Museum Wales which cost the public purse more than £620,000 was reasonable and the “least-worst outcome”, according to senior officials.

Wales’ public accounts committee grilled civil servants about the feud between Roger Lewis and David Anderson, the museum’s former president and director-general respectively.

Andrew Slade, the Welsh Government’s director-general for economy, described the costs as reasonable in terms of trying to get the least-worst outcome for taxpayers.

Labour’s Rhianon Passmore said the dispute could have cost two or three times more – £1.2 million to £1.8 million – if the case had gone to an employment tribunal.

Pressed about whether the deal provides value for money, Mr Slade stressed that nobody approached negotiations with a blank cheque.

This month, an Audit Wales report put the total cost of settlements with Mr Anderson and a former chief operating officer, who retired due to ill health, at £626,383.

The estimate includes legal and advisory fees but not time spent by officials on dealing with the matter nor costs arising from the recruitment of new trustees or staff.

Mr Slade warned that an employment tribunal would have taken about two years to resolve the issue, with the outcome potentially subject to appeal.

He said: “Whether it's value for money, without actually having a complete ability to say it would definitely have been this other thing, I guess that's hard to pitch.”

Director of culture Jason Thomas, who was on the panel that appointed the former rugby boss, confirmed concerns were first flagged in spring 2021 during the president’s annual review.

Ms Passmore questioned why mediation did not occur for eight months after the review, describing the grievance process as elongated, unwieldy and unfair.

Mr Slade admitted the Welsh Government did not have a process in place to effectively deal with a breakdown of relations between senior museum leaders.

He said: “We then clarified, I think, that not all parties were willing to engage in mediation – so we moved to the next step, which was to appoint an independent investigator.”

Mr Slade stressed that the Welsh Government had to tread carefully due to complications such as the arm's-length body having a royal charter and charity status.

MSs heard board meetings were held behind closed doors, with no minutes taken, and the former director-general remains on the museum’s books until next September.

Mike Hedges questioned advice to ministers that payments for injury to feelings and loss of employment were reasonable, saying the total was not included.

Mr Slade accepted more detail could have been provided.

Mr Hedges said the settlement was way above the amount tribunals ordinarily award, outside of sexual or racial discrimination cases.

After failing to get to the bottom of his line of questioning, with officials committing to write to the committee instead, the Swansea East MS said: “I'll just say I remain unsatisfied.”