STEVEN DOWNES reports on the latest clumsy move by Croydon Council’s £185,000 chief exec to try to cover-up a scandal in her administration
Jo Negrini, Croydon Council’s chief executive, has confirmed that one of her most senior aides has managed to hire a family friend on £787 per day, and that they failed to declare the relationship with the hiree, as is required by council staff’s code of conduct.
Negrini probably didn’t intend to provide confirmation, but in a thinly veiled threat of legal action against this website, the £185,000 CEO failed to refute the essential allegations contained within our reports.
Negrini also managed to confirm that there had been an internal investigation into the matter earlier this year, which had been covered up and that she had taken no disciplinary action.
A second investigation is now underway, but only since Inside Croydon brought the matter to the attention of a senior councillor, who reported it to the Borough Solicitor.
Inside Croydon reported last week that Graham Cadle, the council’s assistant chief executive for “customer and transformation”, had overseen payments of £787.36 per day to one contractor working on the council’s “digital enabling programme”. The contractor is Harwinder “Harry” Singh, who was previously commissioned by Cadle to develop Croydon’s very own crap app, MyCroydon.
Council insiders familiar with the digital enabling project have described it as “a machine built to get money out of the council without any governance”.
Cadle has failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s questions over his relationship with Singh and Sullivan. Shortly after our report was published last week, Cadle’s council communications were set to “out of office” mode. The £150,000 council executive was not expected back in his office in Fisher’s Folly until today.
Negrini had also been sent the questions for Cadle. Having failed to answer any of those questions, a week later she sent to a letter to Inside Croydon Towers in which she claimed that, “As a public authority we are of course open to scrutiny and engagement with our customers and residents. We genuinely welcome debate and ideas from every quarter.”
It was Negrini who earlier this month addressed a sceretive behind-closed-doors meeting at the Town Hall, where the press and public were locked out, and where she told councillors that “It’s a sign of a failing council that seeks heads to roll”.
In her letter to Inside Croydon, Negrini claimed that there were “inaccuracies” in our reports, though she failed to detail a single one.
She also failed to deny that one of her most senior executives had arranged the £787 daily payments to Singh.
Negrini wrote, “The council is committed to the highest standards of openness and accountability and takes reports from its staff of malpractice within the workplace extremely seriously. We recently conducted an internal investigation under our whistleblowing procedures, and as you are aware we are investigating this situation further following receipt of a new referral.”
Had there not been an investigation by Inside Croydon, Cadle’s conduct at the council would have gone unreported to the vast majority of the borough’s elected councillors. No significant disciplinary action was taken by Negrini following a whistleblower’s report over Cadle’s conduct, and the matter was gently swept under the executive office shag pile on the seventh floor of Fisher’s Folly.
Despite Negrini’s avowed commitment “to the highest standards of openness and accountability”, no one at Croydon Council has yet offered any explanation for Cadle being able to pay £787 per day to a chum.
And although Negrini says that the council is “open to scrutiny and engagement with our customers and residents”, she has failed to offer an explanation for the lack of any serious disciplinary action in the case. Meanwhile, Singh and the digital enabling project has managed to burn through a £8million annual budget in just five months.
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