The New Zealand former head of the United Kingdom child abuse inquiry charged taxpayers almost £6000 ($10,300) to fly treasured possessions including a vase 18,346km across the world from New Zealand.

Dame Lowell Goddard, who became Britain's highest paid civil servant when she took up the role as the third chair of the beleaguered inquiry, reportedly had a favourite vase and other personal items be flown from her home in Wellington to Britain, the Daily Mail reported.

The Kiwi judge, who was paid £360,000 ($622,000) - double the wages of the UK Prime Minister - billed the public purse £5812 ($10,036) to fly out cherished possessions.

She reportedly said she needed to have the objects in her flat in Kensington, West London, for which taxpayers were also paying £119,207 ($205,870) in rent and utility bills.


The actions of the former chair of Britain's biggest public inquiry, who was branded a "disgrace" after she quit last year, only emerged after the Home Office refused a Freedom of Information request about her employment.

Now the UK Government's financial watchdog is threatening to investigate the entire £100 million ($172.7m) child abuse inquiry, including relocation costs.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has been asked to undertake a "Value for Money" investigation into the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The request was made by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who has raised concerns about "the use of public funds to meet excessive expenses, salary and severance payments" for the inquiry.

Nandy wrote to the Home Office requesting all communications around the employment of the New Zealand judge.

But the freedom of information request was refused on the grounds that it would deter future candidates from applying for the post.

Undeterred, Nandy wrote to the National Audit Office reportedly saying: "I am concerned that IICSA is not presently subject to any scrutiny regarding its use of public funds.

"Despite serious concerns emerging in the past year about the use of public funds to meet excessive expenses, salary and severance payments, both the Home Office and the IICSA have refused to disclose details about how money has been spent," the Daily Mail reported.

Now NAO chief Sir Amyas Morse has agreed that there is "real scope for the NAO to look at some of the issues" and ordered a director to carry out "initial inquiries" into the finances of the independent inquiry.

It is the first time the financial watchdog has been asked to intervene in the spending of an independent inquiry.

Dame Lowell, who quit last August, cost the taxpayer over £500,000 ($864,000) last year, including a payoff of over £80,000 ($138,000).

Under a deal reportedly agreed with the Home Office, taxpayers paid out £29,156 ($50,4000) in relocation costs and £67,319 ($116,300) for flights back and forth to New Zealand.

But when Dame Lowell unexpectedly quit, the inquiry refused to foot the bill to transport her vase, and other items, home.

The chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee branded Dame Lowell a "disgrace" after she refused to appear before MPs who want to quiz her over her tumultuous 16-month tenure when she is alleged to have made racist remarks and been abusive to staff, which she denies.

Yesterday, Nandy said: "This is an astonishing use of public funds at a time when the victims and survivors of child abuse are struggling to meet their own costs to participate in the inquiry.

"It beggars belief that Theresa May set up an inquiry this important without any oversight of how public money is spent. I think they've admitted to it because they've got wind that the NAO are on their way.

"I welcome the National Audit Office's decision to begin initial investigations into the way public money has been spent by the Child Abuse Inquiry.

'Since Theresa May set this inquiry up in 2014 as Home Secretary it has been beset by problems and characterised by secrecy.

"It cannot be right that an inquiry that has already spent more than £30m ($52m) of taxpayers' money is not accountable to Parliament or the public."

There has been concern over mounting costs following a series of delays to the inquiry, which was set up to examine decades of allegations of abuse in institutions including the government.

Hearings are yet to start, but the probe has already cost £34 million ($59m) and the final bill to the public purse is expected to top £100 million ($172.7m) by 2020.

More than £3 million ($5.2m) has gone on hiring a battery of lawyers charging up to £200 ($345) an hour before a single word of evidence has been heard.

According to the latest financial report, £4.1 million ($7.1m) has been spent on staff, which includes an accommodation allowance for the current chairman, Professor Alexis Jay of £35,150 ($60,700) on top of her £185,000 ($320,000) salary and £10,773 ($18,600) expenses.

But the inquiry has refused to disclose any further details on staff spending or expenses.

The National Audit probe raises the prospect of yet another inquiry into the crisis-hit inquiry.

Professor Alexis Jay has already had to call in an independent legal expert to examine an alleged cover-up of sexual assault and bullying claims at its headquarters.

An IICSA spokesperson said: "To assist with the relocation costs, the inquiry paid for a number of personal possessions to be brought to the UK for Dame Lowell's residence at a total cost of £5,812.32 ($10,036).

"The figure includes insuring the items as well as shipping costs and was a one-off expense to the inquiry. We did not pay for the items to be returned to New Zealand."