Thursday 19 December 2013

Caerphilly Council - Another damning report

The Wales Audit Office continue to take a tough stance with Caerphilly Borough Council and the Appointed Auditor, Anthony Barrett has issued a second report confirming that the Chief Executive, Anthony O'Sullivan did act unlawfully by authorising buy outs of car and extra holiday allowances for himself and senior colleagues. The BBC and the Western Mail both report on the story and the Public Interest Report itself is on the WAO website.

Both Mr O'Sullivan and his deputy, Nigel Barratt are suspended and currently on police bail following their arrest in July on suspicion of fraud, they are likely to find out in January whether criminal charges will arise. The arrests followed an earlier WAO report which found that they had acted unlawfully by awarding themselves and other senior officers pay rises.

Today's report is similar and involves unscheduled meetings, failure to declare personal and pecuniary interests and being closely involved in the decision making process.

A opposition councillor said; “It is clear from the damning report from the WAO that there was an attempt by some of the council’s most senior officers to thwart the democratic process by deliberately not making elected members aware of these payments. That is utterly unacceptable. The public will no doubt ask whether the people who were primarily responsible for this unlawful decision and breach of trust should ever again be allowed to hold public office."

In Carmarthenshire the wait goes on. The recent decision by the Executive Board to reverse the decision on the Chief Executive's pension payments whilst still maintaining that it was not unlawful, was the last we've heard about it all.

Whether or not this was sufficient to persuade the WAO not to issue the Public Interest Report we don't know as the second issue also found to be unlawful by the Appointed Auditor, Anthony Barrett, remains outstanding; the libel indemnity awarded to the Chief Executive in January 2012.

Also, individual complaints were made back in March of this year to the WAO concerning the circumstances surrounding the meeting where the indemnity was granted and presumably those will have to be answered.

Those complaints centred on the unscheduled agenda item, failure to declare interest and the degree of involvement in the report recommending the indemnity.

With pressure mounting for a full council debate on both of the auditor's findings, the leader of the council, Kevin Madge has promised that this will happen at the January meeting, a few short weeks away.

The councillors will of course need to be fully informed of the details of the legal advice relied on and all sides of the argument, to be able to have a meaningful debate and to hold those responsible properly to account.

For background see my post from October 'Unlawful payments - the story so far' and the BBC article of the 25th September Carmarthenshire blogger row: Council libel costs pledge 'unlawful.

I have also followed the Caerphilly scandals on this blog but for some reason the 'searchbox' on the right no longer works, hopefully Google will sort it out at some point. For now, readers who wish to use a search facility will have to use Google itself.

1 comment:

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