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Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologizes after ethics investigator criticisms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologized after a government ethics investigator criticized the U.K. leader and his staff for failing to disclose messages that he exchanged with a donor about financing the redecoration of his official residence.

Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser on minister’s interests, wasn’t informed of the messages last spring when he investigated the so-called “cash for curtains” scandal. They came to light in early December as part of a separate inquiry by election regulators.

Geidt acknowledged that the new disclosure didn’t change his finding that Johnson had not violated the ministerial code. He did however express “grave concern” that the information wasn’t turned over to him earlier. Geidt’s comments were published Thursday when Johnson’s office released letters he exchanged with the adviser.

“This present episode provides evidence of insufficient care for the role of your independent adviser,” Geidt wrote to Johnson on Dec. 17. “Beyond that, however, I believe a far greater threat to public confidence attaches to the exchanges unrecalled, the messages undisclosed, the data unconsidered and the subsequent misjudgments about the impact of the messages which I have had to weigh in this initial advice.”

Johnson acknowledged that WhatsApp messages he exchanged with Conservative Party fundraiser David Brownlow weren’t disclosed to Geidt until after the Electoral Commission concluded its inquiry on Dec. 9.

Johnson said this was due to security issues and an effort not to interfere with the Electoral Commission’s work, though he apologized for not providing a “fuller explanation” at the time of Geidt’s initial investigation.

“I am sorry that the Office of Independent Adviser has been put in this position and can only repeat the humble and sincere apology I gave when we discussed this matter earlier today,” Johnson wrote on Dec. 21.

Geidt, whom Johnson appointed as independent adviser on ministerial standards, had previously criticized the prime minister for “unwisely” failing to determine the source of funding for the pricey renovations.

The project cost as much as 200,000 pounds (more than $271,000 US), according to news reports. British prime ministers receive a government grant of up to 20,000 pounds (more than $27,000 US) to refurbish the official residence when they move in.

Johnson proposed setting up a charitable foundation to cover the additional costs, but that was ruled inappropriate and Brownlow stepped in to pay the bills, Geidt said in his initial report. Johnson later reimbursed the money.

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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