Friday 27 November 2015

The case of the disappearing email...and more from today's Herald

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald takes a look at the shelved 2010 investigation into the Council's planning services with reference to an email published on this blog a few week's ago in which council chief executive Mark James informs colleagues that following his 'challenge', the Auditor had 'backed down' and any formal investigation duly quashed.

The email also reveals that he planned to press for confidential information, including a questionable use of FOI.

The Herald reports that Freedom of Information requests were recently made to the Wales Audit Office and the council for all the correspondence relating to this potential investigation, the request to the council would have included this email. The WAO produced a couple of brief items of correspondence.

The council, however, claimed it no longer held any of the emails, not even those disclosed by the WAO.

This, as the Herald points out, is odd;

"Setting aside why a local authority would want to dispose of such important documents about its interactions with a statutory body, it rather begs the question of WHEN the documents were disposed of and on whose authority".

During the electronic disclosure stage of the libel case, which produced this email, keyword searches were made by the council on it's databases, servers, back up systems, PCs and laptops, including Mark James' laptop. The email itself had been written in January 2010 and was clearly still available in the Autumn of 2012 and was added to the bundle of documents.

Now we find that the email, along with the council correspondence with a regulatory body, namely the WAO, has mysteriously disappeared. Does this mean that all internal and external emails are now customarily deleted? Or is it just the dodgy ones on Mark James' corporate laptop?

Makes you wonder what else has been shredded...


The Herald lead article concerns claims of systematic misuse of European funds in relation to the Coastal Care programme. This programme ended last year and involved several local authorities, however, the allegations centre on Carmarthenshire Council. I was contacted myself around three years ago about these very same allegations which just goes to show how adept this council is at keeping things under wraps...

The allegations involve the use of EU monies, meant for young clients, to fund services the council is obliged to provide, this is not allowed under the EU criteria. The Herald has examined documents which suggest that 'time sheets and young people's NI numbers were manipulated to show that council employees had been working with Coastal clients when they had not'.

Further allegations were made to the Herald, from the council's Adult Services department, that despite senior managers being well aware of the issues, the practice still continues. The newspaper has an internal council document which acknowledges that the issues, which include the 're-creation' of records of interactions with vulnerable teenagers by Council staff, exist.

Unison representative Mark Evans is quoted as saying;
"We are aware that members have made allegations to the local authority in the past including falsifying of time sheets and working hours on Coastal Care and that they were using money from Europe meant for Coastal clients, which was used for statutory purposes instead, illegally".

As for the matter of whistleblowing, claims by Unison representative Mark Evans that members of staff are 'too frightened' to come forward come as no surprise to me. This is a problem across the authority. Mr Evans adds that members who have whistleblown in the past have 'ended up facing disciplinary action themselves'. A coincidence? No, not in my experience.


Finally, on a lighter note, another excellent Cadno this week with a special Christmas pantomime special. It includes several interesting contributions from the likes of The Reverend Gremlin Vole, Kevin Muggs and Dame Muriel Chippings, whoever they may be, and last but not least, there's this heartfelt appeal below.....

Click to read

For further coverage on these stories and more, The Llanelli and Carmarthenshire Heralds are available across the county, and can be found on Facebook here and here.


Cneifiwr said...

It seems that the council's archives are divided into what we might call 'Ancient' and 'Modern' sections. The priceless ancient archive has, as we know, been the victim of neglect and mould, while future historians will discover that interesting bits of the modern stuff suffered rodent damage.

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr, come back mun, your county needs you!