Monday 26 November 2018

A Wellness hiccup? - Updated

Later post 6th Dec; The Wellness Village - the end?

Update 30th November; 
According to a report in the Daily Mail the suspensions at Swansea Uni do indeed relate to Mark James' Wellness Village. According to the newspaper, the Vice Chancellor and Prof Marc Clement, and two others were suspended over 'conflicts of interest' and the purchase of shares  by an 'unnamed individual'. According to the Mail, that individual was making 'key decisions' about the project, so may well refer to the appointments to the City Deal board as detailed in my main post below, published on Monday. If this is the case then presumably they should be suspended from the Board immediately.

'There were concerns of an ‘inappropriate conflict of interest’ whereby the employee could profit from public money invested in the project, despite making key decisions about it, a source said....Swansea University’s registrar later obtained emails in which the shares were discussed and began an investigation'  (Daily Mail)

In other words it is alleged that certain individuals were prepared to personally profit from public money over this development, (which has already cost millions of pounds of public cash), and the City Deal.

After researching and writing about this tangled web of familiar names and private business interests for over two years, I am quite certain that it all stinks and the whole project should be shelved.

Whatever the case for the Uni professors, the spotlight should now be on the City Deal 'Accountable Officer', Mark James. And before he claims it is 'nothing to do with him, guv', it should be remembered that he has something of a track record in failing to declare his own private interests and he has been involved with all the key players, including our friends from Sterling/Kent Neurosciences right from the start. I've said all along that with his extended rap sheet, he was the wrong man for the job.

I look forward to his imminent suspension.

For more on all this, the Wellness Village and the City Deal, please search this blog.

Update 29th November;
WalesOnline reports today that Swansea Uni's Prof Marc Clement 'vehemently denies wrongdoing' and has instructed lawyers to act on his behalf. The Uni, meanwhile, is sticking to its guns.
 * * *

News reports today reveal that the Vice-chancellor of Swansea University, Prof Richard Davies, and Prof Marc Clement have been suspended (on full pay), along with two other employees, whilst an internal investigation continues. The university are not releasing further details at the moment only to say that the investigation does not concern "the academic performance of the university or its financial wellbeing".

Whatever the case, for those following the Swansea Bay City Deal saga this is interesting news. Both of them are key players, particularly Prof Clement, and both are part of the 'ARCH' project and both were very recently appointed to influential positions within the exclusive SBCD club; Richard Davies as a non-voting member of the Joint Committee and Marc Clement to the Economic Strategy Board as the representative of higher education.

We can only speculate as to the reason for the investigation and there has been no suggestion, of course, that there is a connection with the City Deal, but regardless of the reason, the suspension of two of its high profile figures is undoubtedly significant.

Llanelli born Prof Clement has had something of a controversial past, and several interesting news stories pop up on google, including his leading role in the disastrous Technium project.
He is also a director of several companies, the latest venture being Vardiola Ltd set up in February this year with fellow Swansea academic Georgios Dimitropoulos.
Listed on Companies House as providing 'hotels and similar accommodation', Prof Clement resigned from Vardiola Ltd on Saturday. (Update; the company is now in the process of voluntary dissolution)
Funnily enough, Mark James is also in the property business. And also a director of Trinity St David Uni.

With regards to the City Deal, and more particularly, Mark James' private healthcare Wellness Shed down at the Great Swamp, Marc Clement was a director of Kent Neurosciences, resigning shortly before the Exec Board, behind closed doors, signed a 12 month 'exclusivity deal' with the company to develop the Village in May 2016.

As I have set out in detail here, the deal was not renewed and company dissolved last year, only to re-emerge as Sterling Health, with the Dickmann clan still at the helm, and landed the council's contract to develop the Village. Kent Neurosciences had been behind the development of a private hospital in Maidstone, Kent which required a £20m bail-out.

Questions about the council's appointment of Sterling Health were brought up at the last full council meeting, Mark James' Emlyn Dole's responses were evasive and hostile. Carmarthenshire Council is the lead authority for the City Deal, and Mark James is the chief officer...

L to R; Phillipa Holt-Dickmann, Mark James, Prof Richard Davies, Emlyn Dole, Franz Dickmann and Prof Marc Clement


Sian Caiach said...

AS far as I understand it the City Deal requires a Public/private partnership where private investment is needed. As far as I can see the Sterling Health Crew are only
contributing publicity photos, helpful ideas and the pretence of a private investment.
Is there any real money here at all?

From the documents available to the public online,planning application s/36948, Natural Resources Wales are yet to be satisfied by the assessment of the site which they say is inadequate. They are as yet unsure that the development is a realistic proposal.

Welsh water seem to need investment from CCC to provide the extra support to service the site and their last letter suggests they have sent in the likely bill for the development. Their work on the £90m Rainscape project which empties drainage water from South LLanelli into Delta Lakes, means that the new buildings would have to be carefully phased as WWDC can't just drop everything and provide drinking water and sewage in quite challenging circumstances while trying to finish their own major drainage project by 2020 so the sewage of the rest of Llanelli can all be treated and hopefully the cockles and other wildlife will return.

Flood prevention and coastal defences have decided to let NRW adjudicate if the site can be protected from flooding and the sea.

When I was a County Councillor I asked Mark James why such a difficult site was chosen. The actual words I used were God Forsaken I recall.

Where else would we find 40 acres of land so cheap? he replied. The County owned the site and so the land to him was "free", merely owned by the public and easily requisitioned for the Wellness Centre. I wonder how much benefit to the public this will eventually produce ?

caebrwyn said...

Thank you for the comment Sian. Indeed, NRW are not happy and have said they will object if certain conditions and assurances are not met. The council appear to have ignored discussions held with NRW in October and hopes to push the planning approval through at an Extraordinary Planning Committee meeting in January.

I see that the business cases for the City Deal projects, the Wellness Village and Yr Egin, are up for the rubber stamp at Monday's Exec Board meeting (3rd Dec).
As the two items are listed as exempt, none of the documents are available and the discussion will be held behind closed doors. How unsurprising.
I just hope the two governments are carrying out their own due diligence checks as Carmarthenshire Council, and it's chief exec, certainly can't be trusted.

Anonymous said...

I do hope Siemens and Pfiser are aware of this arrangement.

"The collaboration agreement that has come from the procurement process is between Carmarthenshire County Council, Swansea University and Sterling Health Security Holdings, within a consortium of partners including Siemens, Fujitsu, Pfizer, Faithful & Gould, David Morley Architects and Medparc."

Redhead said...

And the first dominos fall ...

caebrwyn said...

Anon 20:42
Worth noting perhaps that Medparc is a management consultancy company run by James Dickmann. He is also a director, along with Mr Dickmann senior, of Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd and Sterling Health Security Property Ltd, and a former director of Kent Neurosciences, which I referred to in my post.

Keanjo said...

Anyone know whether the WAO has shown any interest in examining these proposals ?

caebrwyn said...

I wouldn't know, but it would be advisable, and save a lot of cash in time to come when a full team of forensic auditors have to be sent in...

Redhead said...

The forensic auditors should be in there NOW. NOT the usual suspects auditors - REAL forensic auditors. Gosh your MP must be useless! And now, having read his Wiki profile, I can assure myself he is!

Anonymous said...

"Swansea Uni's Prof Marc Clement 'vehemently denies wrongdoing' and has instructed lawyers to act on his behalf."
Those who protest too much?

caebrwyn said...

Also on the subject of the City Deal, another spin-off company, 4TheRegion, seems to be flourishing. Incorporated in January this year it is basically a PR/events/networking organiser for south west Wales. The directors include Mr Dimitropoulos, mentioned above, and Dawn Lyle. Ms Lyle is also a director of iCreate, a media company responsible for many of the flashy 'artists impression' PR videos for the Wellness Village and other projects.
Coincidentally, back in December 2017 the council issued a tender notice to appoint an Events and Engagement consultant for the SBCD. By April 2018 the tender had been shelved, 'Despite receiving a number of high quality bids we will not be appointing a contractor at present.' Had 4TheRegion already been appointed? Unofficially?
Interestingly, for a company promoting west Wales, there is not one word of Welsh on their website. Given the total lack of Welsh credentials, 4TheRegion was an odd choice to organise the opening ceremony of Yr Egin, the new, part City Deal funded 'cultural hub' for the University of South Wales Trinity St David's campus in Carmarthen.
There is nothing wrong of course in PR companies being used to promote projects and encourage investment, in any language for that matter, but to the casual observer it is all a bit of a tangled web, untraceable and unaccountable, and using public money. Who will really benefit from all this? The residents of the region, or the Swansea Bay City Rollers themselves?

Anonymous said...

Worth perusing Google re: Prof. Clement's activities at Cardiff Wales University. Under his "leadership" the Uni. Was caught out "validating" Degrees for foreign students on behalf of a Mickey Mouse "college" in London. Under this wheeze, foreign "students" turned up at a scruffy little office in London, paid upwards of £1500 and received degrees "validated" by Cardiff Wales University, which no doubt received a cut. No vetting, no lectures, no attendance necessary. Prof. Clement, the bod in charge at Cardiff expressed his complete surprise that such nefarious activities were going on right under his nose. Was he reprimanded or disciplined?.......well,no.......he was promoted!

Neil Singleton said...

Interesting that you mention the disastrous Technium project. The two Technium in SA1 Swansea were managed by Swansea Uni, under the direction of Prof. Clement, who also undertook the letting to fledgling companies "spinning out " of the Uni's Singleton Campus. Not generally known is the penchant of Prof. Clement to demand shares in any company he vetted as suitable for the Techniums. Wonder where Dragon's Den got the idea from?

Anonymous said...

The Mail article says of Davies and Clement “Both are board members on the body, ARCH, which will hand out the next series of private contracts for the plan”.
So is our old friend Meryl Gravell, former CCC councillor who was once described as Mark James’ cash cow. Should it be asked if a conflict of interest arose when she was appointed as a director of Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd and Sterling Health Security Operating Ltd on 3rd July 2018? This is the same time as Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd were appointed as the private sector partner for the 'Wellness Village'.
She remained as a director of Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd until 6th November 2018 but remains in cahoots with Franz Dickmann as the only other director of Sterling Health Security Operating Ltd.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 16:49 Indeed, what a tangled web they weave. ARCH's current role in the Wellness Shed isn't entirely clear, back in October 2017 it emerged that the Welsh Government were refusing to funnel funding through the organisation, leading Neath Port Talbot council to vow not to plug any funding gaps.