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Rail museum curator in contracts row
A CURATOR at York’s National Railway Museum is at the centre of allegations over contracts for work on train engines, but staff have backed her.
A museum spokeswoman said it was satisfied Helen Ashby had complied fully with reporting requirements for a senior member of staff – including any declaration of interests – since her appointment to her current senior role in 2003. But she said the Science Museum Group would review whether it was appropriate to launch an internal investigation.
A newspaper alleged yesterday that Mrs Ashby’s husband Adrian received more than £25,000 for work which included painting an engine which was due to be named after her, helping to restore the Flying Scotsman and receiving contracts without competition from other suppliers.
Museum director Steve Davies said Helen Ashby was a valued member of the museum team, known for her high moral values, public spiritedness and altruistic love of the museum. “There is no doubt in my mind that she has followed our code of conduct both to the letter and in the spirit,” he said.
“Adrian Ashby has been a volunteer at the museum for over 35 years and has an excellent track record of delivering high quality work both as a volunteer and in a paid capacity.”
The museum spokeswoman, who said Mrs Ashby did not wish to comment, said her relationship with Mr Ashby was common knowledge and had been appropriately disclosed both prior to and after her appointment to her current position, and the museum was satisfied the tender and procurement processes had been fully adhered to.
“During the past five years, the organisation has commissioned in the region of 40 painting contracts and Mr Ashby has been awarded seven.”
She said the museum had a list of 14 approved contractors and others on the list had carried out a similar number of contracts to Mr Ashby.
“On two occasions, the full tender process was not initiated because it was vital that the work was carried out quickly in order to meet the National Railway Museum’s primary responsibility of care for the National Collection. Mr Ashby was chosen because, of the contractors considered, he was available to do the work at short notice.”