Thursday 19 May 2016

Unlawful payments - Mark James challenges the Auditor - updated

Update 20th May:

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald reports that the Wales Audit Office have told Mr James, via Cllr Dole, where to put his complaint, in so many words.

It seems, from the Wales Audit Office response to Cllr Dole that he had, in addition to querying Anthony Barrett's appointment, asked the WAO to return the fees incurred for the two Public Interest Reports.
The WAO responded and confirmed that, as a member of the Welsh Government approved Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA);

"Anthony Barrett's qualifications as an Appointed Auditor at that time, do not call into question the validity of any of the actions he took in relation to any local government body. All reports and certificates issued by Anthony Barrett are valid"

The Auditor General for Wales also wrote to Cllr Dole and the Herald reports that the letter remarks that Mr James raised no objection to Mr Barrett's appointment at the time, nor did he raise any query when Mr Barrett was tasked with investigating the whole murky business behind the unlawful payments. He also confirms Mr Barrett's eligibility to act under the Audit Commission Act 2001.

In his final paragraph the Auditor General echoes the WAO letter and further confirms that all reports and certificates issued by Mr Barrett are valid.

So that, it appears, is that. Good. It remains to be seen how much more money the council are prepared to throw at massaging Mr James' fractured ego.

*  *  *  *  *

BBC Wales reports that Carmarthenshire council chief executive Mark James, via his mouthpiece Plaid Cymru leader Emlyn Dole, is, unsurprisingly, joining the suspended senior officers of Caerphilly Council in questioning whether the appointed auditor, Anthony Barrett, was qualified to rule that the unlawful payments were indeed, unlawful.

The criminal case against the Caerphilly officers, following similar findings by the Wales Audit Office, and which included the chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan, was dropped last year although this seems to have had more to do with the the Crown Prosecution Service dragging their feet than anything else.

Step forward Emlyn Dole, once, when in opposition, the opponent of all things unlawful, and now the chief protector of Mr James.

Cllr Dole speaking at the Extraordinary meeting in Feb 2014 and voting to ACCEPT, in full, the findings of the Appointed Auditor that the libel indemnity was unlawful...

This is not surprising, only a couple of months back Cllr Dole was denying that the unlawful payments ever existed, although blatant hypocrisy in politics is commonplace. Mr James, of course, will do anything it takes to try and discredit anyone who finds him at fault; he attacked the Auditor, via the press office, when the Wales Audit Office reports came out in 2014 (and indeed the Plaid MP who reported him to the police).

This latest move by Mr James to get himself off the hook shows he is prepared to spend even more of your cash to attack those who challenge him.

I have covered the Caerphilly case on this blog as there are clear and obvious parallels, most recently here. In my view the three officers should have stood trial for Misconduct in Public Office, and/or fraud, and should have been joined in the dock by Mr James and his partner in the pension scam, Pembrokeshire's Bryn Parry Jones. Mr James had the additional 'problem' of his illegal libel indemnity of course.

The WAO reports can be found here and here, and Anthony Barrett's bio here. He seems entirely qualified to me. The WAO should respond to these challenges urgently - if the one occasion where they actually showed themselves to have teeth is not defended robustly then they might as well pack their desks and shut up shop. 


Anonymous said...

Surely if the qualifications of a member of the W.A.O. are being questioned, it would be in order for the W.A.O. to check the qualifications of their critics, for example those of Carmarthenshire County Council's own leaders, including the chief executive?

Anonymous said...

Plaid in Carmarthenshire do away with meeting prayers.
They will sing their new theme song instead.

Anonymous said...

"Surely if the qualifications of a member of the W.A.O. are being questioned, it would be in order for the W.A.O. to check the qualifications of their critics, for example those of Carmarthenshire County Council's own leaders, including the chief executive?"

You are not referring to professor mark james CBE, MBA, BA, VD Bar & Scar are you?

Couldn't agree more with the commentary that now is the time the WAO need to descend on this shower like a tsunami. The dark lord is probably sat in his ivory tow we safe in the knowledge they will do absolutely nothing. Just this once I would love to see them come down and poke around his domain. As I said, unannounced which will cause the greatest pressure and legal linda will be in total turmoil then as she wont have time to consult wikipedia either.

Time to go james.

Anonymous said...

It appears that the master ventriloquist has found a very willing dummy in cllr Dole.

Ken Haylock said...

If the libel indemnity somehow _isn't_ unlawful then the law is badly broken and requires urgent repair. Ditto the dodgy pension scheme. And if the auditor isn't the person tasked with flagging up when decisions made by councils are unlawful, then who would the guilty parties he identified in the Caerphilly & Carmarthen cases suggest should be judging that? Or is it a blanket objection to anybody making that kind of determination as I suspect?

The libel indemnity is particularly toxic. If that is lawful then it is allowing taxpayers money to be spent on using the legal system to persecute and bully random citizens of this country in pursuit of the petty personal vendettas of Councillors & - as in this case - council staff, but presumably the same would apply to any public body. If that's not illegal (I'm sure it is) then it needs to be made illegal immediately!

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the WAO declared the payments and indemnities to be "unlawful". The Council have never challenged this assertion yet didn't agree. There has been something of a stalemate ever since.

If the unlawful finding is challenged in a court and upheld surely this will place Jaquie in a stronger position ? I don't know just thinking !

Maybe for the time being we should use new adjectives for the payments like "unusual payments" or "unorthodox payments".

On a serious note its very bad that yet again this matter is being aired to the detriment of the county. MR James should be a faceless burocrat who nobody has ever heard of yet he must be the only person in the council who many people in Cthen could name !

As for the leader he will have to answer charges of sheer hypocrisy if he now supports the challenge after all of his utterances in the past to the contrary. I'm pretty sure there are folk out there now lining up quote after quote.

caebrwyn said...

Just to clarify, the payments were wholly unlawful and the WAO were legally able to find them so. As for terminology, in the real world, and for mere mortals, we'd be hearing the words 'illegal', 'theft' and 'fraud'.

Unknown said...

Our public money should not be used to silence the critics of Councils which fail to be open and transparent; act dishonestly and fail to follow proper procedures whether statutory or not; fail to allow Cllrs to do proper scrutiny; order Cllrs not to become involved when their constituents have a beef with the actions taken by officers; misuse police time for it's own ends again to silence right and proper dissent and the publishing information in the public interest by bloggers; silencing whistleblowers by coercion and failing to follow own policies; these public servants in charge of Carmarthenshire County Council(CCC)would not act in so cavalier a way if it was their own money at risk. WAG has got to start protecting the public purse and the public from corrupt LAs! The WAO had a try at holding the CCC to account and failed; now they have another opportunity to take stronger action or will our political representatives put the break on any action to protect party interests? I have a feeling Dyfed Powys Police will continue to ignore the CCC's "Misconduct in Public Office" especially now the new PCC is Plaid (same had he been Labour). Tory ex PCC Christopher Salmon seems to have got the measure of the CCC and had he had another chance may have acted by putting pressure on the Chief Constable to sort out the wrongful acts towards the public caused by the Dyfed Powys Police's bias and devotion towards protecting the CCC unquestioningly. No Tories in CCC and few in WAG; voting for him this time around may be the first and last time I vote Tory shame he was not a People First member stead of a Tory member he'd had a good stab at the job!

Anonymous said...

Whilst it IS illegal to gain a job via false misrepresentation, i.e. falsely stating qualifications and/or experience it might be more appropriate to explore that particular avenue where the dark lord is concerned.

What exactly are the qualifications for a chief executive of a council? For Carmarthenshire I understand one of them was to speak Welsh. We the boy from Merthyr cannot and did undertake to learn. Hows that going?

However, I digress. What exactly are his qualifications? Where from? And how is he qualified for the role? He's making a right royal mess of it all and appears to be accountable to no-one, questioning anyone that challenges his position with a barrage of legal actions.

Time to turn the tables. An investigation should be undertaken to determine how james was appointed to the role, under what circumstance and his remit. Plus what qualifications he holds compared to what he claims.

Then, if it is determined he has committed false misrepresentation appropriate action can be taken against him, which can include recovery of unlawful (as opposed to illegal) payments. Furthermore, he could be looking at a custodial sentence, news which many in the county would receive with great pleasure.

We all live in hope.

Anonymous said...

To start, one ought to check that a candidate met the job specification, which would have been widely advertised around the time. I'm sure the Council holds copies of all adverts they've placed, as well as the full job description and any supporting materials that would have been made available to all prospective applicants. That sounds like an interesting FOI request for WhatDoTheyKnow.

I wonder if the jobspec has been updated since? Perhaps in anticipation of a need to advertise due to displacement, or if an application for voluntary redundancy had been successful...

Unknown said...

The man has no conscience; neither has his cronies, encouragers and protectors inside and outside Carmarthenshire County Council(CCC). He no doubt got the job because he has the type of character which suits the culture of the CCC. They'd not be doing with someone who put Public Interest before their own interest which might have impacted on their own iffy practices. No wonder the Council leadership bow before him; praise him and protect him as he takes actions against dissenters; shower him with love and gratitude as he helps keep them feeding from the trough of the public purse with no accountability. Cllrs questioning the culture of this mutual back scratching are sidelined, left in limbo, just as members of the public are who complain or employees who disclose wrongdoing. Last thing this kind of LA wants is a brave and inquisitive press or bloggers who reveal it's shenanigans to the outside world. Long may they continue. Trouble is too few of the public have any interest until they are wronged by this toxic LA of ours. The seeds of change are falling mostly on stony ground. The stony ground will eventually become more fertile and then our votes will actually start to bring change. I look forward to it.

Redhead said...

Follow the money ... it always works in "public service".

Anonymous said...

well all I can say is thank god for the Herald !!

Anonymous said...

I think you will find that Emlyn Dole is no puppet on a string !! Check out Anthony Barrett past before jumping to the paranoia exhibited

Ken Haylock said...

Emlyn Dole seems to be energetically defending things he was vehemently opposed to quite recently. Apparently his opposition was more tactical than principled... and the opposition seemed to dissipate when he got his own snout in the trough...

caebrwyn said...

Well, you never know your luck Anon 18:20, perhaps Mr Dole will challenge the WAO's response?...maybe take them to court! No expense spared if it's on behalf of Mr James, and great value for money for Carmarthenshire residents.....

Anonymous said...

It's simple

Anthony osullivan is advised by dave daycock axed monitoring officer in Swansea former colleagues
James working with them directly due to similarities
James leading Doyle by nose
James knows if osullivan attack works creates a smokescreen for him
If james thought he would win he would have
Gone to court

Unknown said...

Mark James's nick name should be Teflon Man no mud sticks. Doyle's willingly being led as what seems to protect MJ could so easily rub off on him and the other closely knit members and protect them too. Anon 23:26 interesting looks like it really pays our highly paid iffy public servants to network and study each others methods of getting out of the poop!

Anonymous said...

Anon 18:20 – so you’re saying that it would only be a paranoid person who makes the association with say, Pinocchio and his creator Geppetto?

Anonymous said...

If Cllr.Dole is not controlled by string then he should openly explain why he has done a complete U Turn of his intentions between when Labour were in control and his current Plaid actions.
His constituents surely deserve an explanation.

Anonymous said...

Dole is on his way out. Soon to be claiming his own namesake no doubt.

Given his performance, he now rates as ineffective and confused, suitable only a a muppet/puppet. He's got egg all over his face. The end is coming.

Forget about the cannon fodder, its james who needs to go. Get rid of the snakehead and the rest will fall like a deck of cards.

One thing that is very obvious, even to james, is that public opinion about him is not good and spreading fast. Surely his days are numbered. I line in the hope that he will lose his job, not through resignation but dismissal for wrong doing.

Unknown said...

I to live in the hope that the wrongdoing officers & members, who allow the cover up culture to continue by supporting coercion of otherwise honest officers into acting against the public interest by demonisation, defamation or dismissal of anyone who raises concerns whether employees or members of the public, gets their just deserts. Pages 8&9 in this week's Carmarthenshire Herald has a story based around corruption under the headline "Senior officers covered up scandal in Pembrey". The police are being involved but will they look into it properly knowing how intertwined they are with Carmarthenshire County Council hierarchy? Someone very brave (some would say foolish) seems to have got so p****d off with CCC shenanigans they could no longer turn a blind eye. Jacqui posted an article about this in March with a link to an article by the Herald (proves we need investigative journos and bloggers to keep us informed of what our public servants, whether officers or representatives, are up to. More strength to their elbow I say!