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.