Margot James says it was a big mistake to award government cash to US entrepreneurs firm
The former digital minister, Margot James, has said she was totally appalled that a government scheme she had championed to foster UK cyber skills benefited an American businesswoman at the centre of a conflict of interest row involving the prime minister.
Margot James had successfully argued for the expansion of the cyber skills immediate impact fund (CSIIF) when it was used to award 100,000 earlier this year to Hacker House. The company was founded and run by Boris Johnsons friend Jennifer Arcuri after she had moved back to the US.
James said she would be very surprised if Johnson had had any involvement in awarding the grant, but admitted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Skills [DCMS] made a big mistake in awarding the money to Arcuris company.
Speaking to the Guardian, she said: It is a complete mystery to me how this company got anywhere near the money.
The DCMS has launched a review into how the grant was made and withheld 53,000 that is yet to be transferred to Hacker House.
James, who resigned as a minister a week before Johnson became prime minister, said: Im totally appalled that the money was awarded to this company. Although it didnt get my sign-off I was the minister responsible at the time, so thats why I want to know now, belatedly, what happened.
Matt Warman, a DCMS undersecretary, insisted last week that the department had done the usual due diligence over Hacker House before awarding the money.
This is a company that is based in Britain as far as Companies House is concerned. It is a company with a British phone number, he told the Commons. But when the Guardian phoned the UK number it got through to the US and when a reporter visited its UK-registered address he was told it was a virtual office and staff were based elsewhere.