Friday 7 February 2020

Wellness scandal - Swansea University statement - sticking to its guns

Swansea University have released a little more detail and background to the sackings and disciplinary proceedings relating to the Wellness village/Kuwait scandal.

As the police investigation into alleged bribery and corruption is ongoing, and employment tribunals are on the horizon there is still little flesh on the bones. However, despite the continued denials by some of those involved, the university remains steadfast in its position and no doubt the full story will emerge eventually.

As for the police investigation, the regional organised crime squad, Tarian, have issued the following statement via South Wales Police;
"Eight people have been interviewed as suspects, all of whom remain under investigation. Further enquiries as part of this complex investigation are ongoing. Extensive examination of a significant number of seized documents and electronic equipment also continues."

You will recall that documents and electronic equipment were not just seized from the university staff, and a certain address in Kent, but also from the homes of former CEO Mark James and former council leader Meryl Gravell, and from the server room at County Hall.

Here's the University's statement, from a report by WalesOnline;

"As there have previously been inaccurate reports regarding these serious matters, the university is issuing this brief statement.

"In September 2018, the university investigated a payment that had been made to Raymond Ciborowski (the university’s former registrar) upon the termination of his employment.

"This investigation found that the agreement governing the termination of Raymond Ciborowski’s employment as registrar contained irregular and inappropriate provisions.

"After these findings were presented to Raymond Ciborowski on 27 September 2018, he resigned from his part-time position with the University as a special adviser.

"Following his resignation, further evidence was discovered that indicated Raymond Ciborowski and other employees of the university had significant undeclared interests and stood to make financial gains in a personal capacity from the university’s participation in commercial projects with which they were involved as university employees.

"These gains included salaries from future appointments and equity potentially worth millions of pounds. The evidence suggested that there were material and serious interests that should have been declared under the university’s policies and procedures.

"As a result of these discoveries, the university informed its auditors and instructed expert external legal advisers to carry out an investigation.

"A leading employment law barrister, with no previous connection to the university, was appointed as investigation manager to conduct a disciplinary investigation.

"Following a thorough investigation, which included multiple interviews with the suspended individuals and the review of a substantial number of documents, the investigation manager delivered a report to the university in May 2019 recommending that there was evidence of gross misconduct."

To add a little more background, an earlier WalesOnline article, dated January 2019 (and covered on this blog) reported that Mr Ciborowski had been offered employment, discounted homes and shares by Kent-based Mr Franz Dickmann. This allegation of, shall we say, inducements, appears to have been made by the now sacked vice-chancellor Richard Davies in a 'leaked' grievance letter.

Obviously, my interest in all this, and the extensive coverage on this blog over the past few years, centres around the involvement in this scandal of former CEO Mark James, or should I say his curious determination to appoint the Dickmann clan. Also of interest is the involvement of the leadership of the Council, and not forgetting the role of the council's notorious legal department led by Linda Rees Jones.

She was stripped of the role of City Deal Monitoring Officer following the damning internal audit last year and of course Mark James hastily retired just as the s**t was beginning to hit the fan. The position of City Deal Lead was subsequently deleted, a convenient and cheaper alternative than sacking him. Carmarthenshire, unsurprisingly, lost the audit and democratic responsibility within the City Deal.
It remains to be seen who else at the council knew more than they've been letting on.

Prior to his retirement Mr James had, without a shred of conscience nor a whisper of a declaration of interest, brought in his own personal solicitors Acuity Law to give the council a 'clean bill of health' over the tender process for the Wellness Village. Everything that had been, shall we say, shady, was, of course perfectly fine, just a little, erm, 'unusual'.
A FOI response last November revealed that their advice over the initial procurement cast further doubt on their claim to have been 'independent'.
However, Mr James' true motive in commissioning Acuity Law was to give himself a pre-emptive defence.

Also prior to his departure was the damning letter from the former City Deal colleague and Chair of the Swansea Bay Health Board, Andrew Davies who accused Mark James of having flagrant disregard to any of the seven Nolan Principles of public life and being, in so many words, a compulsive liar. Though I have to say this wasn't a revelation for many of us...
Mark James's career ended with a flurry of legal threats which, it seems, came to nothing as he'd have had to pay for it out of his own pocket this time, rather than yours.

One of the key characters in this fiasco, along with Mark and Marc, was Franz Dickmann.
It was Dickmann's company, Kent Neurosciences who landed the council's initial, behind-closed-doors 'exclusivity agreement' to develop the Wellness village, clearly on the recommendation, instruction and insistence of Mark James and Marc Clement. This was despite the company having no track record other than the development of a private hospital in Kent which, before the Dickmann's scarpered, required a £20m bail-out.

Kent Neurosciences went pop within a year with a deficit of £128k and the 'agreement' wasn't renewed. However, after an 'robust and extensive' tendering exercise to find a new developer, lo and behold, Sterling Health were appointed, who, surprise surprise, consisted of the Dickmann clan again, this time with Meryl Gravell on the Board.

They were the only bidder and, at the time, were £137k in the red. Not only were they going to develop the site, apparently, but family members in the various companies were lined up to run other aspects of the project, including the management consultancy (Dickmann Jnr) and a private creche.

What was, and remains interesting, was the determination by Mark James to appoint Franz Dickmann's and his companies (all now dissolved) in this key role, not once but twice, despite the obvious lack of evidence that they could deliver. Almost as if he didn't care about that bit, and indeed, some senior council officers were beginning to doubt the viability of Sterling before the University, inconveniently for Mr James, exposed the allegations currently being investigated.

Early last year Mr Dickmann popped up in yet another murky scandal along with our Mr James and his friends at the Uni with the revelations over the proposed private hospital in Kuwait, (see Mark of Arabia here - worth a read for even more background). To keep it all in the family, Mr James had been made a trustee, something he failed to register in his official declaration of interests. Rather like his business empire in Cardiff.
The Kuwait venture was subsequently referred to the authorities, by the University, as part of this whole investigation.

The full details will hopefully emerge in the weeks and months to come, whatever the outcome of the complex police investigation.

L to R; Mrs Dickmann, Mark James, ex V-C Richard Davies,
Emlyn Dole, Franz Dickmann, Marc Clement

PS. Nearly forgot to add that the Rev Dole will be jetting off in March for a four day jolly to the annual MIPIM property show in Cannes. Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart and various City Deal high-rollers are also destined for the French Riviera with the City Deal budget coughing up £10,000.
However, Emlyn's hotel and flights will be paid for by the long suffering taxpayers of Carmarthenshire.
And given this splendid account of the event from a few years back, the Wellness scandal and the ongoing police investigation might just fit right in!

PPS Apparently the MIPIM beano has been postponed due to the coronavirus thing, such a shame Emlyn won't be going just yet...

Aside from the links in this post there is extensive background information on all this, the City Deal and the wellness scandal on this blog, if you wish to search.


Sian Caiach said...

The MPIM Cannes meeting costs 1.975 euro plus 10% VAT just for registration per person. How many of the city Deal gravy train Council Delegates are going?

I don't think the £10k budget is going to cover the whole gravy train with transport and accommodation to pay for as well. How much are the Swansea city deal area council tax payers going to have to contribute to send the Rev Dole and his happy crew off to MIPIM to learn how to manage real estate with the professionals

MIPIM. Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier - its the world's leading Real Estate Market event - what the hell is Dole planing to sell off to the world?

If Emlyn really doesn't want to go the 11th of March full council meeting in Carms county Hall surely he can just pretend he's unwell instead of mooning around the Palais des Festivals at our expense?

With around £2,000 to get through the door plus all his expenses, is he really just off to sell more land in Wales to whoever want a fast buck, or just to enjoy a quiet break in Cannes at the taxpayer's expense?

caebrwyn said...

The £10k doesn't cover Emlyn's hotel, flights and, erm, perks, Carms council taxpayers are coughing up for that. Likewise Swansea residents are paying for Rob Stewart. Still, I'm sure no one will mind parting with their hard earned for Emlyn to enjoy yoga on the beach, free drinks and the delights of the Cannes nightlife...

Patricia B said...

In my opinion, Rev Dole Plaid Cymru, shouldn't be swanning off to Cannes he should be on gardening leave whilst investigations are carried out as to his conduct. He's refused to meet with the Leader of the Plaid Cymru party to discuss my case, saying that if he did, Zurich, the council's insurers, had threatened to withdraw all legal cover leaving CCC uninsured. This is what he imparted to Plaid members at their evening meeting last October. How ridiculous did that sound, but as usual most members didn't ask questions, just accepted the 'ridiculous', and a vote was cast that ensured Emlyn did not meet with Adam Price. The final nail in my coffin!.
Absurd?, but this is the way of CCC. This charade was to absolve himself from reneging on a promise to Adam Price, made nine months earlier, to hold a review of my case. It was, in a nutshell, a concocted lie, to bury me and the scandal that I got caught up in, once and for all.
Rev Dole can blame his 151 officer and Legal Linda until hell freezes over, but it would be in vain, as he was very much part of that conspiracy, knew full well this wasn't true; only had to ask Zurich if it was correct, as I did, and confirmed it was indeed a blatant lie. Rather than be rewarded for gross misconduct he should be suspended from Plaid and from his position as Leader. He is a disgrace. As far as I am concerned, this council should be in 'special measures' it is out of control. The Rev Dole is guilty of a serious offence and such conduct must be seen to be punished, not ignored.
It has to be, that many others have been involved in the shenanigans surrounding the Tarian investigations when this example of serious misconduct is simply seen as normal within the walls of County Hall.

Anonymous said...

Plaid leader E.Dole should have been placed on "gardening leave" much like his previous CEO, while there is a full Independent investigation to his and other senior officers actions. Here is an individual who has NOT behaved in a transparent and democratic way of fulfilling his public duties. Why , once again, does Carmarthen County Council think that they are unaccountable for their actions? It is quite obvious that the Labour-led Welsh Government has little if any wish to investigate this Council. There was a hope that the"new broom"ie: W. Walters CEO would bring a total change in the way that the Council's actions could be openly questioned by concerned residents in Carmarthenshire. How many more people will have their lives severely impacted by the actions of these "public Servants"?Other Councils in Wales have been put into special measures. Why is there a reluctance to investigate Carmarthen County Council? Democracy or Autocracy, that is the question!

Anonymous said...

With the University taking action they obviously have concerns re the employees that have breached the rules

I am assuming the Council has not similar concerns regarding their employees - so the assumption is they will be cleared by the police investigations

As for the jolly to the South of France - why go mob handed taking so many individuals - it should be the chair and the newly appointed project director of the city deal

But who knows how these organisations work - if you do lets us know

Taxpayers money at the end of the day

Anonymous said...

Wonder why they send Mr.Dole to the meeting.
Has he any experience of such things ?
Maybe the French want to knock down a barn and open a hairdressing salon and require advice on how to go about it.
There's probably more to this than meets the eye. But of course the Council are quite open on such thins. Aren't they ?
Taxpayers money is of no significance, just raise the Community Charge if you want more.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.40 I think we were all hoping for a 'new broom'. It begs the question why this council isn't being disinfected now the control freak has gone. There are two people still running this council who are still covering the back of our little man, the now infamous Mark James.
You do have to wonder why and what they have in their cupboards - 'two barns' is one - wilfully misleading members is another - both sackable offences - how much more? Where is the new CEO, she's very quiet!!

Black Ice said...

It's time our Carmarthenshire Councillors stopped playing party politics and got down to doing what they were voted in to do.
This has been going on for a long time, but this PLaid controlled system is a real disgrace.
Even our MP and AM just do not want to know.
The fact that Emlyn Dole refuses to speak to Adam Price shows Emlyn Dole's guilt and Adam Price's "could not care less" attitude, Emlyn Dole should be dumped immediately from the party.
Buy yourselves a miiror CCC Plaid and look closely at your image. Lots of photos in local papers with either sad or happy faces will get you nowhere.

Anonymous said...

The Tories got rid of Maggie Thatcher a Prime Minister but Plaid cannot get rid of a Councillor who is quite obviously damaging the party's reputation.
Weakest of the weak. Wake up AP & JE.

Anonymous said...

The Plaid led council have declared a climate emergency - how in the world can they justify paying tax payers money for Dole to fly to a jolly in France - Plaid are ultra hippocrits. This is all about development and building more house without the infrastructure - hardly carbon neutral is it?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 13:51
Unfortunately the council works a little differently to the University, particularly with regards to the bullying, dishonest and downright criminal behaviour of its former chief executive.
And that's before the Wellness scandal.
It's been a bloody joke.
Assume nothing. He's as guilty as sin.

Anonymous said...

With regard to references in other comments on the new CEO regime in County hall - this was a legacy / succession planning appointment or covering ones' back

Many years in the making from Mark James / Dave Gilbert partnership

If you cover your tracks long enough people forget what you got up too

That is the only role of the new CEO hence why the quiet period - nothing to see here !