Sunday 10 November 2019

The Council and that 'independent' Acuity Law report...continued

Acuity Law, readers will recall, were the law firm which carried out the council's 'independent' review of procurement and governance around the Wellness Village. Their report, which was published in February 2019, was commissioned by the council to give themselves, and more particularly the then chief executive Mark James a 'clean bill of health,' and in fact it was mysteriously leaked to the Western Mail (I'll give you three guesses who was responsible for that).
I wrote about the report here.

It was trumpeted by the council as a wholly 'independent legal review' which 'assessed robustness and compliance around the procurement and governance processes.'

However, the 'independence' of the review was soon questioned given that Acuity Law also represent Mr James on a personal basis, and had done since January 2017.
Acuity Law then made legal threats for defamation against certain 'elected members'.

The governments' Actica review and the damning internal audit review then laid bare the dire state of governance under the leadership of Mark James. This was accompanied by the scathing and entirely accurate letter, directly attacking Mr James' honesty and integrity, from the then Chair of the ABMU health board.

After a flurry of County Hall legal threats, Carmarthenshire was then stripped of the responsibility of democratic governance and audit. Mark James was, it turned out, hurriedly retiring, and Legal Linda was no longer the City Deal monitoring officer.

Along side all this is the bribery and corruption investigations into the Wellness tender with the sackings at Swansea University, the Kuwait scandal and the raids on eight properties on the 31st July by the organised crime squad. Including Mr James' home.

The criminal investigation is still ongoing.

Anyway, as per my previous post, after yet another lengthy wrangle a recent FOI response has revealed another reason to challenge the 'independence' of the Acuity Legal report.

The February 2019 report not only suggests that their involvement was relatively recent, ie late 2018, but also stated;

"Acuity did not advise on the procurement process or on the preparation of the Collaboration Agreement which form the bulk of the subject matter of the review" (my emphasis)

However, an invoice disclosed in the response dates from early 2017 and lists the work undertaken by Acuity for the council.

It includes (my emphasis);

Preparation of a note on procurement timescales;
Preparation of email for discussion regarding procurement;
Reviewing and commenting on a procurement update;
Further email advice on procurement issues, timescales and prior information notices.
Review of background information including the Kent Neurosciences lockout agreement.

Further to this, this particular invoice they either met with, or telephone conferenced, senior council officers seven times, on the 20th, 24th and 31st January 2017 and the 3rd, 7th, 18th and 27th February 2017.
By a remarkable coincidence, the 20th January was the exact same date Acuity Law started representing Mark James against me to force the sale of my home. Hopefully the council didn't muddle up any invoices...

It could certainly be argued that the phrase 'did not advise on the procurement process' is open to interpretation but for the council to claim that this was an 'independent' review is stretching the truth, that's my interpretation anyway.
As I've said before, in my view the report was commissioned by Mr James to provide him with a potential pre-emptive criminal defence. He knew what was coming.
It reminds me of another example of 'independent' legal advice which was the 'independent' advice to the Exec Board in 2012 to unlawfully indemnify Mark James, that happened to come from the council funded lawyer representing Mr James in the libel case.
He has form.

Full response to the Acuity Law FOI here.