Hallmarked WBC

New-WBC

The latest forensic examination performed by whistleblower Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro on the BIG fund debacle is set out below.

Try and stay with the technicalities and complexities as it demonstrates the effort and commitment that whistleblowers have to go to evidence their concerns. Such effort and commitment is of course totally inexplicable to the powers that be at Wirral Council.

As a matter of interest our view on the question posed in the final line of the article is that the powers that be just want the titles and the money to sustain their egos . And they want to do it with the least possible effort. Those who want things ‘done properly’ are to be swatted away like irritating midgies. All the ‘midgies’ can do is too continue to get under their skin……..
I have just completed a review of my penultimate audit sample of BIG fund files. When I get the Data Commissioner’s order for WBC to release the Merseycare Transport ltd BIG fund file I will, as any proper auditor ought, have selected a sample of 20% of all BIG fund files. It is incumbent on any auditor to increase his sample where a random sample-the original 6- is found to be entirely deficient, as it was.

I am of course unpaid and have had to battle with a reluctant, and indeed deceitful Council and officers seeking to cover over the inadequacies of its staff and systems in the years 2009 to 2012.

What strikes me is that these officers never demanded original Excel files, or indeed created them from pdf’s. I had to recreate the Excel file so as the better to analyse its shortcomings from indistinct copies of pdf’s. However if this did not, and it did not, demand much of my time, then how much easier it would have been back in 2009-2012. Why did these officers not test these Budgets as so easily they might have done by recreating them on Excel. Grant Thornton in their report indicated that no sensitivity analysis had ever been done for which read my comment above. You can only readily flex budgets if you have them on Excel! What ifs, and, does the Cash flow and the Profit and Loss gel?, are questions answerable if the data is on Excel. My first test was to “Excelise” and place Profit and Loss and Cashflow together to create a Balance Sheet. If the balance sheet from these two combined does not balance then one has unearthed the central lie, and so it was unreconciliable.

Further the officers might have distrusted LEC’s budgets and their competence by observing that even in small matters the budget submitted was wrong.. there is no VAT to be claimed on either bank charges and interest nor on Insurance, but LEC Lights calculate VAT on both. One would be on guard had the officer been awake at the time.

Can a balance sheet be prepared from the two documents, Cashflow and Profit and Loss? For year ending 30th March 2010….NO!! That is to say the fundamental underpin of all accounting numbers, that they should all add up to zero, to balance, is not satisfied. Thereby the plan is INVALID.

The reviewing financial officer, probably Bob Neeld, did point out on July 23 2009 that in October 2009 the cashflow predicted that the £15,000 overdraft facility would be exceeded by £20,000 even with the receipt of the grant… “predicting its own failure” was his expression. The cashflow sent to myself under FOI shows the re-arranged balances to answer this flaw, leading only to a £7,900 overdraft. A remarkable turnaround in the one month leading to the award in August 2009, partly explained by the introduction of supposed further Director’s loan repayments of £15,000. Indeed that became a condition of the BIG loan that at least the first of three deposits of £5,000 be shown to officers of Invest Wirral. Really it was a paltry condition indeed in face of the manifold objections to awarding the grant, not least that at 31st March 2009 the firm was insolvent to the tune of £115,000 .

The real question were the connexions between the patent holding company Luminanz . If £15,000 could be magicked out of somewhere within less than 3 months, perhaps in reality the claimant was Luminanz, based in Bolton. The reviewing account was alive to this in his July report

“I am therefore alerted to the possibility that the two companies are connected, and that the development project is being undertaken by Sign Lights ltd(lec lights) yet owned by a related company under licence”.

Indeed a former name of the company had been Luminanz Manufacturing Limited, one of its four incarnations. At inception Morton Graham was both a director and a fifty per cent shareholder in LEC lights whilst at the same time controlling Luminanz Ltd in Bolton.

Mr Neeld devotes two paragraphs to the notion that perhaps in reality LEC lights does not need the money, a vital criteria of BIG, it can get it from Luminanz, but is opportunistically grabbing at the ripe plum on the WBC tree, as did so many of those in my audit sample. It is transparent also that Mr Mathews is good for the money without recourse to WBC BIG fund. Later Mr Mathews turns £100,000 of his loan to LEC Lights Ltd to share capital, and, in 2016, is able to offer the Administrator of his company a straight £60,000 for its patents and equipment having dumped a quango creditor (NWF Energy and Environmental technologies LLP) for a cool  £750,000. I guess in one way or another that was our taxpayer money!

The magicking of £15,000 resonates with the curious absence of Director’s remuneration for the entire year projected to March 2010 and onwards through to August 2010, a fallow period of 17 months where the director would live off fresh air. A man of such resources!! He can repay the £15,000 he owes the company and still live off nothing for 17 months. Why ever does he NEED the BIG grant? The suspicion is that it is Luminarz of Bolton who are really behind this bid just as Bob Neeld, the WBC accountant, harboured suspicion. The second director of LEC lights, H Matthews, seems happy not to be repaid his £145,613 until April 2010, and then only in drip feed. The contingency that Mr Matthews will not take his money back early remains another problem for the advising WBC accountant.
The reader must therefore ask himself whether, as claimed by former CEO Mr Burgess, and by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce honcho, Mr Adderley, the BIG fund was largely a success? I will, reluctantly, write a round up of all my long protracted audit but for now I confidently can write…it was not!

It was a failure .When competent officers pointed out flaws their objections were got round by utterly facile means or they were simply ignored or outvoted in the Panel, a vote never recorded.(see Grant Thornton’s report). The independents on the Panel were never told the whole truth. The so called system was as porous as a Delhi slum sewage pipe. Perhaps the officers were incompetent, or just lazy and complacent, or perhaps a deliberate opening was made to facilitate favouritism or even bungs.

 

 

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The Common People

rich-pickings

Rich pickings for the Basnetts and friends.

Now you all know we are totally non-judgemental at Leaky Towers so when we refer to the common people we are talking more about some of the people we discussed in yesterday’s post  who seem to have a lot in common.

They call it partnership working / networking – we call it cronyism and empire building at the expense of the ‘little people’ .The rich enriching themselves and their friends by accessing scarce public resources …..and with Grant Thornton being the common denominator when it comes to auditing there is very little chance of any awkward questions being asked.  We note that the late-to-the-party Daily Mail follow up their own concerns on the matter by belatedly bringing to their readers attention the Peel Group and particularly group director Robert Hough.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4003918/Ban-fat-cats-secret-deals-says-MPs-demand-action-Mail-exposes-old-pals-club-doles-public-money.html

Fortunately our own consultant Dr Robert B Smith has been able to remedy any ‘information deficit’ our readers may have when it comes to the following local contacts and connections that have increasingly caused us so much concern :

Board Games (of recent times)

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority committee members

ex-Chair Cllr Phil Davies; Leader Wirral Council -, now committee member
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – committee member

Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) 

Chair

Robert Hough; Peel Group (previous Chair until end of June 2016)
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – previously Vice-Chair, now Chair

Board members 

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company
Neil Sturmey; Head of Office & Partner, Grant Thornton

Mark Basnett; LCR – LEP (Executive Director in attendance)

Mark Basnett additional company directorships:

Merseyside Special Investment Seed Fund Ltd.
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment (Small Firms) Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Small Loans For Business Investment Fund Ltd
Small Business Loans Ltd

Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley; ex-Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment

Paula Basnett; ex-Investment Manager
Independent Auditor, Grant Thornton

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCofC)

Chair

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO

Board members

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO (ex-Investment Manager at Wirral Council; ex-head of Invest Wirral; ex-Manager of Egerton House; ex-Wirral Business Partnership CEO).

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kevin Adderley; WCofC Group Managing Director (ex-Wirral Council Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment)
Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College
John Syvret; CEO, Cammell Laird (Peel Group)

Wirral Investment Network (Management) Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

The Lauries Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Secretary

Lauries Events Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Wirral Metropolitan College – Governors

Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO
Richard Mawdsley; Director of the Peel Group
Grant Thornton (Auditors in attendance)

Join the dots

The Hive – Wirral Youth Zone

John Syvret; Chair (CEO, Cammell Laird [Peel Group])
Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce
Phil Garrigan Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Saughall Massie Fire Station proposal

Could this be the trade-off for the Birkenhead site for The Hive/Wirral Youth Zone between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service…?

Wirral Waters

Peel Group
Wirral Council

Egerton House (WCofC)

Pacific Road (WCofC)
The Contact Company 26.03.2015 Liverpool Echo – The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Wirral Chamber of Commerce have also provided Asif Hamid’s company with additional support. (£11m reported costs, at least 75% reported as public funding)

Wirral Metropolitan College Wirral Waters campus for Construction and the Built Environment (£8m public funding)
Tower Road ‘A’ & ‘C’ Bridge replacements to service Ro-Ro Ferry £7.12m all public funding incl £712k from Wirral Council – Peel £0

Now join more dots…..

Who was ‘instrumental’ in the failed £175m International Trade Centre as part of a move to kick-start the £4.6bn Wirral Waters project.

Who went to China to meet Stella Shiu?

Who met Stella Shiu when she visited Wirral?

Who went to Reno?

Who went to the Isle of Man?

Who was responsible for administering and investigating the Business Investment Grants (BIG), Investment Start Up Scheme (ISUS), and Working Neighbourhoods, schemes?

 

Better to reign in Hell,than to serve in Heaven ……

better-to-reign-in-hell

We are proud to publish the latest instalment of the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods saga written by Nigel ” Highbrow” Hobro  which may answer a few questions raised by our readers and explain why we continue to follow this story.

We follow it because it’s everything that’s wrong. The incompetence, the ineptitude, the total disregard of what’s right and wrong.

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven:

“So spake th’apostate Angel, vaunting aloud

But inward rack’d with pain”

Satan is the Father of Lies whose feeble imitation of God is Gehenna, or Hell. Rather than serve Truth he will concoct a monstrous imitation, rather like Macbeth who preferred to be a false King than a faithful Thane.

We read much vaunting from Councillor P Davies and from his faithless band, that Wirral Borough Council is ever “open and transparent”. We read glossy brochures from Merseyside Special Investment Fund about its manifold successes and yet all are silent on their failures?

My Lord Leaky in the preface to “The Big Lie” https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-big-lie/ worried about the muteness of regulatory authorities. He did not elaborate but they are worth reciting here. A forensic investigator given access to the Beverley Edwards report signally fails to report of the warnings from that lady about the phoenixing of Lockwood Engineering Ltd’s assets into Harbac UK ltd. Remarkable it is, considering the discussions held with Andrew Walker, the Government Internal Audit Agent, that Grant Thornton can report of no wrong-doing by Council officers. Long before I and James (Griffiths) made our complaints GIAA was investigating the perversion of the tender process for the £3m Business Start up 2 (ISUS) project, and the intimidation by council officers of the most qualified candidate to run it who had an assessment of 88% compared to wirralbiz’s 36%! Yet still the 88% candidate did not secure the contract. Turning to the liquidators of Lockwood Engineering Ltd they found nothing unusual in an engineering company stating on oath that the engineering firm had no machinery whatsoever. When confronted with this anomaly and the starkly clear evidence of the BIG file their response was the liquidation was over. The liquidators of Harbac UK Ltd when presented with same evidence by devilish equivocation asked by what right did I question them, was I a creditor of Harbac UK Ltd? Finally they finished with a “well we have lost a lot of money!” (some £10k on their £395 per hour fees). At this time after a prolonged liquidation, due to there being no accounting records given to them, they propose to close the company in January 2017,without reporting any need for detailed investigation despite having had copious correspondence between myself and themselves (https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07396044).

I have only started emptying the bucket but the above should be enough to persuade the reader that we should all share Lord Leaky’s concerns.

The Devil rules the world and he does so with coin!

What of Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF) and connexions with the Big Lie article?
I don’t intend to befuddle the Reader but these matters are not a clear as the springs in Paradise. Pandemonium is a phrase well coined.

Unlike Councillor Davies in the press release referred to in the Ministry of Truth article

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/ministry-of-truth/

I will warn the Reader that there is some speculation in what I am going to write. I feel entitled to speculate when my adversaries plainly lie. Councillor P Davies undoubtedly is a clever man ( really? – Wirral Leaks) and with fingers in many pies as can be seen from his personal website :

I represent the Learning Partnership on the Wirral Local Strategic Partnership and the Wirral Waterfront Board. 
I am a non-executive director of the following organisations: The Mersey Partnership; Greater Merseyside Enterprise; the PSL Group (Pentra); The Lauries; Wirral Multi-cultural Organisation; and the Laird Foundation.
I also represent Wirral Borough Council on the Merseyside Objective 1 Programme Monitoring Committee and chair a post-2006 European funding lobbying group as well as the Wirral Pathways (Priority 4) Board .

The key words are THE Mersey Partnership, Wirral Waterfront Board and Merseyside Objective 1 Programme Monitoring Committee and chair a post-2006 European funding lobbying group. I believe these posts extend in substance back to the beginnings of wirralbiz and of the strange case of New Concept Gaming Limited. Speculation coming…Councillor Davies would associate closely with Mark Basnett, Director of the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership, for, after all he had also been a member of the LEP and has many photo opportunities with Mrs Paula Basnett, ex Head of Invest Wirral , and now Head of Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Invest Wirral was in charge of the BIG fund and Mrs Basnett was charged from early 2011 with supervision of the renegade Directors of wirralbiz. If myself, Lord Leaky or Paul Cardin were the three witches on the blasted heath cackling before Macbeth, a picture can be conjured up. These people were and are an elite, an Eurocracy, who run Roman triumphs through the media hailing their achievements with our money, European money, and who would recoil at having their failures equally trumpeted.

New Gaming Concept Ltd

The following is neither lie, nor speculation.

In October 2009 Councillor Jean Stapleton signed off a BIG grant to the company who had already received public funding of £845,000 via Subsidiaries of MSIF and via the NWDA.

In March 2010 the same company filed for Liquidation with an accumulated net loss of £905K. All the European, BIG money and NWDA money was declared lost at the final Liquidators report in (https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/05427776) except for £5,000!

No accounts submitted to Companies House in the lead up to the investment of £845,000 of public money on 30th January 2008 were endorsed by professional accountants. Indeed the 30th April 2008 accounts did not even allude to the floating charge nor the debenture created on 30th January 2008.

Speculation follows:

Shoddy indeed was this for a recipient of £845,000 of public money, even dishonest. I wonder whether the accounts filed for 30th April 2009 on 8th December 2009 were truthful in outlining £461,494 of debtors when three months later the Statement of Assets

At liquidation the Debtors are described as £90,000 of which the liquidator by June 2011 has collected just and precisely £NIL. With Invest Wirral running the show given the revelations in the Grant Thornton BIG investigation one can imagine the BIG panel being duped.

This case has not been followed by any detailed investigation for like wirralbiz it does not suit the Eurocracy, among whom I count Cllr P Davies, to rake over the ashes. Certainly I doubt if Joe Public would ever have heard of this monumental waste if it had not been for the determination of the whistle-blowers to nail the LIE.

I have asked MSIF under FOI for their file on New Concept Gaming Ltd and received the fastest ever response to any FOI, that they were not subject to FOI. I have asked NWDA and its successor, DCLG, and WBC, for their files who of course are subject to FOI.

I conclude that Readers should be aware of just how little protection we are afforded from deception by Councillors or downright robbery by some private companies, by any organ of the state or duly appointed agent of the same. CAVEAT EMPTOR and respect to WIRRAL IN IT TOGETHER and WIRRALLEAKS who do the next best thing which is to put travesties on RECORD.

Legal Personality of the Year

surjit-legal-personality

“Where can I buy a personality and can I get it on expenses?”

We continue with the heroic struggle of the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods whistleblowers as they attempt to bludgeon Wirral Council into submission when it comes to revealing the truth and holding people to account. Hey ! guys  you could have saved yourselves a lot of “time and trouble” if you’d recorded a top ranking and well connected councillor being racist and reckless . Just sayin’……….
The latest revelation has come at the intervention of the Information Commissioners Office  (ICO) .Whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro  tells us : ” Even the ICO expresses his inquietude re : the withholding of company names that had gone bust.”
Never mind “inquietude” the ICO ruling falls just short of  stating : ” WTF are Wirral Council playing at?…..” :
“The first thing to say here is that the Commissioner has seen the
withheld information a list of companies who received grants
and she has discovered that a certain number were in fact no longer trading
at the time of the request. A search of Companies House has shown that
certain companies were in liquidation or had been otherwise dissolved.
Clearly for these companies there can be no detriment as the companies
no longer exist. Moreover, a company that is dissolved has no legal
personality so there is no way any claim for breach of confidence would
be actionable. There is no conceivable way the section 41 exemption
could be applied to withhold the names of the companies who are no
longer trading. Indeed it is worrying that the Council has sought to
withhold the names of these companies as it should have been obvious
that the exemption would not be engaged in such circumstances. The
Commissioner would expect the Council to be aware if companies it had
given financial support to were no longer trading and so it would seem
unlikely that the Council were simply unaware that some companies
were no longer trading………
This leads the Commissioner to conclude that the Council has
applied the exemption in a blanket fashion without properly considering what
the consequences of disclosure might be. In light of this the Commissioner has also decided that the Council has failed to demonstrate what the consequences of disclosure might be. “
Oops!
Nigel reminds us that it was 2 years ago that rather worringly he had to remind Wirral Council’s Head of Law  :
“Surjit bust companies have no legal personality…you should know that Surjit!!”

You can see the full  cringeworthy Tour/Hobro exchange at between 14 and 15 mins of this John Brace video . You can also see that it wasn’t a bad dream and that astonishingly  Jim “Crabby” Crabtree once chaired the Audit & Risk Management Committee!.

This ICO Decision Notice  also reinforces our impression that Tour rocks up every Monday at Wallasey Town Hall and thinks to himself  : ” What FOI exemption shall I use this week ?”  whether it applies or not. Oh he’s definitely a legal “personality” is our Surjit!

no-hidden-wrongdoing

” Dear boy – just repeat after me  : ‘no hidden wrongdoing’ and you’ll be fine. I’ve been getting away with that line for years . If in doubt go for denial .”

All pics  and video courtesy of John Brace.

 

Rouday Awakening

dont-lose-your-head-puzzle-maze

If there’s one lesson that Wirral Council should have learned in recent years is this:

Never,ever underestimate the  resilience , resourcefulness  and sheer bloody-minded persistence  of whistleblowers. They will never lose their head and will overcome the bureaucratic maze you attempt to put in their way.

And so we proudly bring you the latest instalment of the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods saga (yes , it’s still going on) . However it’s a sorry state of affairs when the whistleblowers have to get the EU involved.

But whatever works right?.

We proudly present a message from Ms. Rouday  from the Directorate of the Audit Quality Control Committee informing Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro that European auditors are on the case because let’s face it  internal and external auditors on Wirral have failed miserably to do their jobs. Which leads us once again to say : “What is up with these people?”

As Highbrow says :

Terror and Virtue are inseparable bedfellows. It was true in the French Revolution caused by the State’s financial deficit, wholly comparable to ours of 2007 to now. An emergency where ONLY TERROR inspires Virtue.

No threat of harassment no Virtue.

Robespierre’ Constitution of 1794 never implemented has much to say about the duties of civil servants and how the Terror was directed at Germinal against the venal ” Indulgents”.

We have had too much of indulgent pay offs and safe exits, of parachuting to new posts. It is Terror of falling into the tools of the Department of Work and Pensions that keeps the workforce quiescent  a Virtue for those in the riding seat. I think the “bourgeoisie’ need to feel the collar of Madame La Veuve.

Now we don’t profess to understand what  the bleedin’ hell all of this means but we do know we’re behind him 100%. And we particularly like the cut of Madame Le Veuve’s gibbet.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: ANNE ROUDAY <anne.rouday@eca.europa.eu>
Date: 8 September 2016 at 10:26
Subject: Case 33/2015

Please find a letter for your attention.

 

Best regards,

 

ANNE ROUDAY
Secretarial assistant – Directorate of the Audit Quality Control Committee

 

rouday-2

Perfidious Albion

Perfidious Albion

Attaquons dans ses eaux la perfide Albion.

(Let us attack perfidious Albion in her waters.)

Yes ! believe it or not – the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods case rumbles on and this is entirely due to the persistence of those who believe in public accountability as opposed to those who just want to fund their holiday homes in sunny climes without having to deal with any “unpleasantness”.

The latest development sees  the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) join in the game – and it is a game and a dirty one at that .

After reading the email below sent to us by indomitable whistleblower Nigel ” Highbrow” Hobro one was led to exclaim :

” What the hell is up with these people”

” Which people do you mean dear? ”  replied Her Ladyship

” Oh those bloody people crawling all over England’s institutions  masquerading as public servants and who claim to be ‘passionate’ about openness and transparency and yet seem to control every public body in the land  by bullying , controlling  ,self serving , power abusing and lying.”

“Oh those  people .Well yes , quite…..it’s the DODO principle ” sniffed Her Ladyship

” I thought the DODO was dead”

” I wish ! However it would seem that – Delay Obstruction Denial Obfuscation are the guiding principles of modern England”

As  Highbrow  asked us : “I must say do they want people to report wrong-doing?”
No , Nigel it appears they don’t.
Mr Nigel Hobro

By email

Date: 10 May 2016

Dear Mr Hobro

Freedom of Information Act 2000 2297994

Thank you for your request for information concerning the ISUS report on Wirral

Borough Council Spring 2014, which we received on 12 April 2016 and processed

under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I can confirm that the information requested is held by the Department for

Communities and Local Government and we are able to provide you with all this

information. I have detailed below the information that is being released to you.

  1. The date of the report as submitted by A Walker

A Walker submitted the draft report to the Department on 11 December 2014.

PERFIDY! A Walker told me he had submitted his report in April 2014!

  1. The date of the correspondence that first sends the above report to Wirral

Borough Council

The Department first sent a copy of the draft report to Wirral Council on 10 March

2015.

  1. The dates of any responses from Wirral Borough Council

Wirral Council sent a holding response acknowledging receipt of the report on 11

March 2015. A response was received on 5 June 2015.

  1. The value of the claw back suggested within the report.

No claw back was suggested within the investigation report.

PERFIDY: A Walker told me in December 2013 he was to recommend a claw back of £400,000 expecting it to be reduced by higher officers to £250,000.

This situation leads us to consider how things work in almost all institutions in England in general and Wirral in particular  (we can’t comment on devolved governments but we suspect they’re very much the same) .

No wonder so many people feel like exiles in their own country as they find themselves trying  to adapt to an unrecognisable landscape of mendacity and treachery and deceit. Perfidious Albion indeed!.

 

 

The Lowdown From Highbrow

Face it 1

Now we’ve never professed to fully understand the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods whistleblowing case.

However knowing what whistleblowers Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro and James Griffiths  were up against when dealing with Wirral Council we felt our role was not to understand the finer points of forensic accounting but to provide the whistleblowers with an outlet for their justifiable frustration and a platform to make their case.

We firmly believe that the public interest demands that dissenting voices should be heard and not crushed beneath the “bureaucratic machinations” in which Wirral Council still seem to excel.

We make no apologies if those dissenting voices are sometimes too coarse and discordant for the delicate sensibilities of those safely cosseted by huge salaries and positions of power.

Therefore we’d like to thank Nigel Hobro for acting in the public interest and sending us his considered response to the forced release this week of a long withheld report which we’ve printed below. It appears that , as ever with these kind of cases , the devil is in the appendices.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/ghost-story/

For those who struggle with the technicalities we’d just ask that you consider the human interest stories that lie behind the cold hard facts – the careers destroyed,the businesses ruined and the appalling waste of public money.It still seems there are still a few people left who want things done PROPERLY but who are thwarted by those whose face fits but who won’t face the truth and DO THE RIGHT THING.

Dear Lord Leaky,

With great reluctance,- I have work to do, tennis to play in this fine weather and a superb Joseph Conrad short story to read- I have taken up my pen again to write of matters BIG and ISUS. Fear not I will try not to wear out the patience of your readers who look for amusement and biting satire within your blog.

I will not re-run all the arguments about what was criminal and what was not but look at it “holistically” to borrow a phrase from the Principal Auditor’s report of January 2012.

Wirral Council’s Surjit Tour and successive CEO’s have gone to an awful amount of trouble firstly to conceal the existence of the above report, and finally not to release its contents. The papers for the July 2014 meeting had redacted an entire paragraph j from the “Timmins” report into the inadequacy-“not fit for purpose”- Garry audit report which raised eyebrows and comments even at that ill-fated and broken up meeting. In the three month interim I appealed to the Information Commissioner who obliged the council to remove most of the redactions in the paper bundle for the October reconvened meeting. Paragraph j read

“There is on file a previous, and much more detailed, draft report REDACTED  which includes numerous evidential appendices……However ,for the avoidance of doubt, I would not consider that this report could be released into the public domain and has, in any case, been superseded”

Logic would demand to know how it can have been superseded by a 33 page Garry report “not fit for purpose” what with it containing the very things Mr Garry has not got i.e. “numerous evidential appendices”!. The January 2012 report was very detailed and it was a little more than a DRAFT for it was deemed fit to send to the Head of Law. It had been prepared by the person who had been, before departing the Authority in January 2012, the direct superior to Mr Garry! Indeed that report indicates that it was passed over to Mr Garry to complete only insofar as to receive the M L Engineering and Installation Ltd from Mr Hobro, which in fact was passed over days before.

A reasonable reader would wonder what would induce WBC to spend a further £50,000 on (auditors) Grant Thornton where half the fee would be to re-work the near complete BIG report of January 2012. Perhaps to find a good time, and much delayed, to release bad news. With hindsight we know that Cllr Davies’ press release on receipt of Grant Thornton’s report in March 2013 has a double-edged meaning. He refers to the “known failures of Internal audit” whereas we read the January 2012 report all 370 pages thereof, fully indexed and with supporting evidence, and applaud the preparer of it. We do boo Mr Garry’s lamentable attempt to cover up for his masters.

Somehow Mr Tour had deemed it proper to refer to the Police and yet permit Mr  Garry to procrastinate on a report for a full eight months. Mr Garry left his investigations on ISUS during that long interval with a telephone call to wirralbiz!

What of the sense of the DRAFT report of January 2012 among its many, many pages?

Nowhere to be found is a suggestion that either Mr Griffiths or myself were acting in the public interest but plenty of comment is made upon “Vendetta” against the BIG contractor Mr Paul Davies of Fieldcrest Ltd, that I was “having a go” at Mr Davies. The reader should understand the acronym “WB” meaning Whistleblower, was only given just before the November 2011 meeting with the PA and with Mr D Garry at the finance building. Mr Norman, then Head of Law, deliberated on whether we were motivated by personal and not public interest and needed to accept our pure motivations before the interview could commence!. The Timmins review of September 2012 was certainly correct to allude to this bias. It does not refer to the result of Mr Norman’s decision, that we were in a contractual relationship with WBC based on their published whistleblower policy for direct employees and subcontractors alike. The policy promised regular updates on progress and expedition in pursuing the policy. Neither took place.

Can we forgive the detectable bias towards defending colleagues discernible, for example, in the Lockwood Engineering Ltd case? The Principal Auditor {PA} accepts the Chief Accountant’s defence that in one month it is possible that there was a profit of £105,000! PA says that my comments re disappearance of £36,043 VAT creditor; appearance of  additional £49k debtors, disappearance of £16k creditors and all whilst the bank account increases, over just one month, are speculative! The PA never asks why the Chief accountant did not note these extraordinary movements between the Balance Sheet of the Management accounts at March 2010 and the Balance sheet used in the cashflow from 1st May 2010, or why a company capable of making £105,000 profit in one month should need a BIG grant.

THE PA does refer to the acting Head of Law, Mr Tour, the movement of assets from Lockwood to Harbac without any apparent payment (confirmed by myself by reference to the Liquidator) as being worthy of referral to external regulators. I discovered this in 2013 and referred it to Mr Tour and Mr Burgess who played dumb, then promised to investigate and come back to me, but never ever did. The penalty for perjury on a schedule of assets and liabilities to a liquidator can be a stiff prison sentence and yet our Council seems to have turned a blind eye to this so as not to let on that a BIG recipient went into liquidation 5 months after receiving public money in a supposedly “robust” process  (see cabinet notes). The press releases and Mr Burgess at the Audit and Risk Management Committee hearing 8th October 2014 refer not to the 5 months but to the much ,much longer period covering the liquidation process, that is to justify themselves by reporting that Lockwood went bust more than 17 months after receiving public money.

We do importantly learn that the financial forecasts were never submitted to the Independent Panel who had to rely on the written application and generally a 1-2 page appraisal from the Chief Accountant. In one case of the five cases that the PA reviews, the appraisal was not written by the Chief Accountant but by regeneration department itself. To Grant Thornton a panel member later expresses that he would have rejected applications had he seen the financials. The PA never records whether she approached panel members with the financial data nor any of their comments. The above is not the robust procedure asked for in the Cabinet’s outline. The Panel members appear in the light of “patsies” to lay a portion of responsibility upon or to claim that they were experts, so there!

We now know that in January 2012 Surjit Tour was aware that a Service Level Agreement had been written without consultation with the WBC legal or HR department and used without safeguards as to being signed by wirralbiz, or as to the quality expected of the work, or even as to outline the responsibilities and qualifications expected of advisors. Invest Wirral was indeed a satrapy in itself paying only nominal homage to its ultimate Emperor. The Invest Wirral officer who received the telephone call from M. Raworth outlining my objections to the BIG files felt herself satrap enough to dismiss me saying “It was approved by our Chief Accountant” and so another three months elapsed until James Griffiths upped the ante himself.

But I have promised not to stray into details and I check myself. Let me record that a process that allows one man to write a two page synopsis for a Panel to decide upon can whether deliberately or by simple omission fail to point out significant issues. In one case privately he confesses that giving public money to one applicant is a “leap of faith” but this does not reach the two page synopsis. Against all good practice no second review by a competent person ever occurs until voluntarily I perform due diligence in April 2011, having been denied access to the files until then.

The process was indeed a failure. BIG was a gimmick for £1.6m over two years would never have made an impact on the economy of Wirral unless it was done expertly and that was unattainable.

ISUS

Does it not seem strange that the PA records the results of details of Invest Wirral examination of wirralbiz files, which abound with delicate rephrasings for FORGED signatures and yet Mr Garry was permitted to drag on his meandering investigation with no sense of urgency? It seems that having seen a steaming turd the lady officers have recoiled in horror and asked of A4e-yes that paragon of virtue-to say it is not so. The PA speaks with Matthew Slack A4e’s  Head of Audit who fesses up re the dragonfly nature of their examination and she notes that no checks were made on the quality of files by Diane Bradbury of WBC or any WBC officer yet her observations do not rock the perceived impregnability of A4e’s audit that nothing is wrong. It took Grant Thornton to shatter that comfortable illusion and a further 29 months before we could read it in published reports.

The PA records she has asked for the ISUS/Working Neighbourhood contracts but does not record whether she received them so we are unaware whether Mr Adderley had as yet produced the excuse that it had been mislaid. She never references the all-important CRM database and makes no effort one month after the closure of ISUS to secure it, quite unlike myself who secured the internal wirralbiz database as evidence of their malpractice ( only accepted as evidence after Grant Thornton had reported). The CRM database in a say it is not so development, disappeared for a very long period indeed!

No alarm bells are loudly sounded that wirralbiz refuses access to its staff for interviews and indeed even to look at files after the ISUS contract terminates (16th December 2014). The PA visits for two hours on 14th December and then the portcullis is closed. If I had been WBC then I would have gone not to the defunct North West Development Agency (NWDA) but to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the ultimate disbursers of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money. When I contacted the DCLG in 2012 they did not seem to have heard from WBC. Only in February 2013 did Mr Burgess write a letter threatening wirralbiz with legal costs should they not permit Grant Thornton entry and access to the files. A year is a long time in not threatening legal action unless you did not want again to see and smell the steaming turd. DCLG had every right by contract to examine the files for up to 25 years after closure of the contract and they did gain access in late 2014 there being nothing wirralbiz could do legally to prevent them (notwithstanding a break-in during 2013 where files may have been claimed to have been taken or put into disarray. Claimed!!).

Just one last thing for which I am grateful to the learned Mr Brace. He posits that the exemption defence used by WBC in the FOI case, that it would prejudice their internal audit function, might be due to the length of time expended in redacting out names from the 370 pages. It could not be used as a defence on cost limits as redactions are not included in the FOI costs exemption. They would never have tried it on because that would have been to admit the quantity of the documents they possessed which astonished myself for a DRAFT report. Scrutiny of the screenshot shows that the H: drive contained much of the information retrieved from directories on the “H:\finance\intaudit\fraud\restored_ from _26_07_14\big-isus2\ wirralbiz” suggesting that the exculpatory comment in the Timmins review that an internal desktop review would cost up to £10,000 might be exaggerated, and simply to buy more time. Cllr  Adrian Jones was told the papers were scattered to the four winds, hardly the actions of an internal auditor more those of a madman or maybe a dissembler.

Read the above whistleblower of the future and think twice.

“Typhoon” calls which makes for better reading.

Ghost Story

FOI

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

In trying to maintain it’s increasingly ridiculous Most Improved Council in The World Ever! tag Wirral Council is seeking to kick quite a few compromising Freedom of Information requests into the long grass.However there was one request from August 2014 which seemed destined to be resolved today with the release of a damning report relating to a long-running whistleblowing saga.

No – not that  whistleblowing saga – this particular ghost story doesn’t have the benefit of either Frankenfield’s patronage or an incriminating taped conversation to help find an amicable – if unethical ,immoral and probably illegal – resolution.

No –  this is the long-running BIG etc ; whistleblowing saga and the attempt by the whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro to have an internal audit report which he believes holds the key to unravelling a cover up of serious financial mismanagement to finally be disclosed. Unsurprisingly Wirral Council believe the report “should not be in the public domain”.

For those thinking of embarking on the process of trying to get information out of Wirral Council might first be advised to read the tortuous history of this particular Freedom of Information request :

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/original_big_report#outgoing-449549

You will see here that Wirral Council – having resisted every attempt to drag them kicking and screaming into the  promised land of openness and transparency by yelling
” EXEMPTION !”  at every opportunity were forced to bring in the big guns or at least some highly paid barrister writing on behalf of Wirral Council CEO Eric Feeble to try and kick this FOI request into touch (or more accurately out of reach).
The convoluted excuse for refusing disclosure this time was because :  “the  disclosure would prejudice the public authority’s ability to offer an effective public service or to meet its wider objectives or purposes due to the disruption caused by the disclosure or the diversion of resources in managing the impact of disclosure.”
Huh?.Sounds to us like legalese for “can’t be arsed”
However the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were having none of it and stepped in and gave Wirral Council 35 days to disclose the report.
The 35 days were up today and needless to say Wirral seem to have ignored the ICO ruling.
We now await to see whether Wirral Council will either belatedly release the report or continue to be secretive and obstructive and spend yet more public money on legal fees challenging the ICO decision notice.
Meanwhile it would seem to us that the the corridors of power at Wallasey Town Hall will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of unfinished business……
Postscript – and what do you know the report suddenly appears on What Do They Know website after office hours on the last day before the ICO could take action to force the Council to release the report !.We await expert analysis of the findings – that’s if there isn’t too many redactions!. 

RPT : Redacted ,Protracted & Traduced

 AREPEAT
“We wanted justice but you wouldn’t give it to us” – Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro
Now we’ve made no secret of the fact that at times we have found the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods whistleblowing case hard to fathom (and 600 + page Committee reports don’t help) However we do know that when we hear Wirral Council using the dreaded phrase “lessons have been learned” we know that something has gone badly awry.
Therefore when Her Ladyship told me that history was repeating itself and tied me to the wingback chair in the library I first thought we were re-enacting our wedding night. However she was just ensuring that I sat through a recording of the finale of the long drawn out saga fronted by indomitable whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro and his Aussie mate James Griffiths by showing me a recording of Wednesday’s Audit and Risk Mendacity Committee (we’re not saying that ARMC are mendacious but we are claiming that this committee has experienced enough “misleading statements” in it’s time).
We’re grateful for the fact that the recording and incisive commentary by John Brace on his blog saved us the trouble of looking at the back of  Burgesski’s head ( fashion tip from Her Ladyship: Comrade needs a haircut)……..
 So from his usual observation point on the front row the ever perceptive Mr.Brace drew parallels with the infamous Morton whistleblowing case which still casts a long,dark shadow over council proceedings. This suggests that once again that the “lessons learned” by Wirral Council warrant an F for Fail.
Certainly the redacted reports and protracted investigations reminded us of past misdemeanours although such was the welter of evidence produced by Hobro that the “No Case To Answer” stamp failed to materialise for once.The meeting itself seemed to be a bit of a fractious affair overseen by a charming new council officer/councillor double act : Tetchy Tour and Crabby Crabtree
Indicative of  the opposing viewpoints on display was the matter of a particularly contentious Internal Audit report which according to Burgesski “needed further work” whilst Hobro described it as a “pathetic piece of work” ( although we’re not sure whether he meant the report or the author !)………However we must refrain from such honestly held opinions as Burgesski doesn’t take kindly to council staff (past or present) being “traduced on social media” (!)  – funny how Burgesski doesn’t seem quite so animated on council officers being “traduced” by councillors ( but let’s not go there for the time being)  or council officers traducing whistleblowers.Perhaps he was concerned he’d have to whip out the cheque book again if someone’s feelings were hurt.” If only that cheque book could talk ! ….” sniped Her Ladyship , to which I retorted ” If that cheque book could talk it would be bound to be gagged”.
The general conclusion was that , yes ,mistakes were made ,nobody’s perfect,we’re moving forward etc;etc;etc when it came to dubious business practices and lax accounting and auditing processes which were supposed to be overseen by Wirral Council.
The people who ended up in hospital,losing their business and getting County Court judgements made against them – were forgotten about in a buck-passing masterclass – from Wirral Council to auditors Grant Thornton to Merseyside Police to North West Development Agency (with whom there are some interesting past associations) and back again.” It was before my time….” was a familiar refrain heard during the meeting.
The £46,000 payment to the former Chief Internal Auditor wasn’t before your time though was it Comrade?
As we’ve already reported the day after this meeting Burgesski announced his retirement so it seems that having once declared  : “We’ve won the war now it’s time to win the peace” it would appear that he no longer has the stomach for the fight.
And who can blame him?………there’s a H-bomb on the horizon.
H is for Hubris.