Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A better Wales - sweep away these corrupt little empires

One of the driving forces for building an independent Wales is that it would be a better Wales. A place where those in power are accountable and answerable to the people for their actions.

At the moment we have far too many unaccountable people who misuse their power and privilege for their own personal benefit rather than the wider community.

 The latest corrupt little empire to be exposed is the quaintly named Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board. This public body, which was supposed to maintain the Gwent Levels with its £1.8m a year budget, seemed more like a social club for a select few. It organised visits to Venice and Northern Ireland, where 37 people went on a bit of a jolly for staff, board members and their families. Nice.

 Despite the veneer of accountability and purpose, this was essentially a body out of control. Think back to Plas Madoc Communities First, another "rogue" organisation meant to improve the lives of people on one of Wales's most deprived estates. Its coordinator Miriam Beard fleeced the organisation and lined her own family's pockets at the expense of that community.

Another "one-off" was Rhondda Life, which also squandered millions of cash designed to improve an impoverished community.

Perhaps the most notorious recent example, which managed to combine nepotism, political corruption, financial wrongdoing and sexual harassment in one heady brew, was AWEMA. Not so much a group helping ethnic minorities in Wales as one helping one particular family and being shielded from criticism by their links with the Labour government. 

All these organisations have budgets of millions, each employ their own little chief executive and finance director and head of personnel and what have you. These wages and the offices they need to occupy inevitably swallows up the lion's share of the budget, leaving little to actually make a difference in the communities they are purporting to help.

All these organisations churn out annual reports, as is required as a condition of future funding, in which glossy colour report piles upon professionally designed report. But how many of these little empires are achieving anything beyond creating jobs for a select few?

With the exception of Miriam Beard at Plas Madoc, nobody has yet been jailed or even charged with misuse of public money despite clear evidence to the contrary in many cases. 

A better Wales will sweep away this kind of nepotism and croneyism.

1 comment:

Jac o' the North, said...

This is scandalous, sombody should be exposing it!

And you missed out the bullying at Awema. In fact, bullying seems to be a fairly common thread running through all these cases. It helps explain why so many got away with so much for so long.

I had great information on an as yet unexposed outfit, but my informant withdrew from fear of being identified, which would of course have resulted in intimidation and, possibly, the sack.

Also read latest info supplied re Gwent Levels Foreign Holidays Ltd - yet more bullying.

"Yesterday, the Wales Audit Office released a very critical report on the activities of an organisation called the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board. This organisation is a crown body responsible for drainage, and water defence of the Gwent levels. The board is made up of 18 persons elected by local residents and 19 are appointed by Cardiff, Newport and Monmouthshire County Councils. One particular item in the report relates to a 'jolly' of Board Members at public expense to Italy, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland, and much of the investigation by the WAO was disclosed by a 'whistleblower', a member of staff.


However, the WAO has not included details of an indicdent which took place in July 2011. While the WAO was conducting their investigation a bizarre incident occurred. A board member, Mr Harris, burst into the premises of Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board, demanding to see the contents of historical 'board minutes' and various other documentation.. As a board member he is entitled to do this, but it's something that would usually be done by email, especially as Mr Harris is from Croesonen, Abergavenny and the offices of the board is in Nash, Newport. More worryingly, Mr Harris was accompanied by 'another person', which transpired to be a relative of employee of the organisation. Disclosure of personnel files and which includes sickness record, and personnel file details to other members of the public (his companion) is not only downright unprofessional, but a significant breach of the Data Protection Act.

Mr Harris, is of course, a Labour Councillor.
He also sits on the planning committee of Monmouthshire Council.

The WAO had expressed specific concern to the Chairman and to M&A (a firm of solicitors acting on behalf of Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels IDB) that minutes of board meetings were not being sufficiently restricted, and sensitive information, including personal records of employees were being disclosed, and ongoing litigation in matters of environmental protection and planning. This is particularly concerning as this is no 'oversight' by inexperienced officials, but a deliberate bullying of a Labour councillor barging into the offices, intimidating members of staff, and being accompanied by a henchman".

9 October 2012 01:58