Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Roger's parting shot?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Meryl's Meetings and one in particular in which Cllr Meryl Gravell (Ind) rubber stamped a grant for £2.6m. The meeting lasted all of fifteen minutes, the public and press were excluded and just two officers were present.

A little more digging has been done and the Western Mail confirms that the Council's Director of Resources, Roger Jones, has reported the matter to the Wales Audit Office.
He retired last week.

The grant, from the South West Wales Property Development Fund went to a construction firm, JBCH Ltd in Cross Hands for a meat processing plant. According to the Western Mail, JBCH Ltd has been dormant until January this year.

The Wales Audit Office said, "We are looking into this matter and are completing our enquiries at the moment".

A carefully crafted statement has been obtained from council deputy chief executive and head of regeneration Dave Gilbert, who points out that Meryl's rubber stamp is the end result of a lengthy process and that they themselves asked the WAO to 'review the project' as part of a 'health check' of their grant management system - already the subject of repeated concern to the WAO.
He goes on to say that the WAO are happy that proper procedures were followed, just that the process should be 'strengthened'...whatever that is supposed to mean; all a bit odd if you ask me given that the WAO themselves have said they hadn't completed their work.

This statement is Carmarthenshire council spin at its finest. Why did Roger Jones, who presumably had sight of all the documentation, report it to the WAO? This step is almost unheard of in county hall circles, was it a parting shot just before he left? It seems to me he detected something wasn't quite right.

You may also remember the car park deal between the council and the Scarlets and those 'allowable expenses' which is still with the WAO. They have informed me that they will complete their work on that matter sometime this month. You may also recall it was Roger Jones, along with the head of corporate property who had tried hard to secure the best deal for the Carmarthenshire taxpayer, only to have, as it appeared from the FOI response, the rug pulled from under their feet at the last minute by someone who had best deal for the Scarlets Regional Ltd as his priority.

Also in the context of securing the best deal for the taxpayer, I remain sceptical that Roger Jones, one of the authors of the report recommending the libel indemnity, was as convinced as Mark and loyal Linda that it was all such a great idea....and as for a tax avoidance pension 'arrangement', surely not.

Probably the most significant event in the past week or two is the explosive letter from the lay member of the audit committee to the WLGA governance review panel. Whatever the outcome of this latest twist, this council is currently run, "in disarray and not fit for purpose"; so should Meryl, a loyal disciple of this officer-led regime, be left in charge of millions of pounds worth of grants, in private meetings and without any reference to the executive board or council?

Update 19:10
Cneifiwr has been watching the archived council meeting from July (aren't they useful?) and has observed that Meryl sat silent throughout the long list of Members' tributes paid to Roger Jones on his forthcoming retirement. As Cneifiwr mentions, given her often stated undying support for her officers, and the fact that she has worked with Mr Jones for the past fifteen years, it was a telling silence....


Anonymous said...

Have the Scarlets accounts been submitted yet?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 10:03
As far as I am aware the accounts are still overdue.

Anonymous said...

On the 19th of August 2014 in an article for Walesline the Rugby manager for the Scarlets said,

“I think the pro game should be run in a professional manner and in an open way, so that it can be scrutinised as being value for money"

Anonymous said...

Ombudsman - Audit Office - Sir David Lewis - does Mark James or his officers take responsibility for their 'er' 'mistakes' and apologise - ever. I have just had the misfortune to have to yet again complain about a thoroughly dishonest planning application for which we suffered hugely - again. There have been so many. The result being - 'it would have been passed anyway'. Is that an answer a member of the public should expect from a very senior officer of this rotten council - I don't think so. I believed it was an offence to put in dishonest planning applications. It appears not. If it is not then everyone can do it. I can't say any more as obviously this will be yet another complaint regarding dodgy dealings to land on the Ombudsman's desk. Even when they are criticised by persons of note they just don't give a damn. Surely it is time for 'special measures' to be put into place on this totally out of control - do as we like - whoever suffers - council.

Redhead said...

So, to add to all her other "attributes" one can add - vindictive.