By STEVEN DOWNESCouncil leader Tony Newman remains silent on the unfolding scandal at Fisher’s Folly, where the council’s assistant chief exec has overseen payments of £787 per day to a friend without first properly declaring the relationship, as is required.
Despite a whistleblower alerting the council’s standards officer to the matter, no significant disciplinary action was taken following an internal investigation into the conduct of Graham Cadle, the assistant chief executive for “customer and transformation”.
The matter would have been covered up by the council, had the whistleblowers – and there are several council workers who are concerned by the situation – not contacted Inside Croydon.
Certainly, the situation with Cadle and IT contractor Harry Singh was unknown to senior Labour councillors until this website brought the matter to their attention. A second investigation is now underway, following a report to the Borough Solicitor by a councillor.
Cadle is the godfather to Singh’s child. The child’s mother is Karen Sullivan, a council employee in Cadle’s directorate, where she is the head of revenues and benefits. Singh has been hired as part of the council’s “digital enabling programme”, which is supposed to be developing online tools and forms, including some which might be used by the revenues and benefits section.
Whether Newman was aware that Cadle was handing out council work, and generous dollops of public money, to a family friend is not known. According to council payment records seen by Inside Croydon, Singh was paid an average of £16,534 per month between March and July this year – equivalent to almost £200,000 a year.
Despite being the senior elected representative of the people of Croydon, Newman has refused to act or even pass comment on a project which other council workers have described as “a machine built to get money out of the council without any governance”.Newman has had plenty of time to respond: a fortnight ago he was sent the questions which Inside Croydon put to “The Godfather”.
And last week, we approached the council leader directly, asking him what he intended to do about the situation, or whether he agrees with Jo Negrini, the council chief executive, who has said that, “It’s a sign of a failing council that seeks heads to roll”.
Many of Newman’s Labour councillor colleagues are angry at the leader’s handling of the children’s services crisis at the council, where senior council officials have been shown to be less than frank with the elected representatives. Croydon’s children’s services department has effectively been placed under special measures by Whitehall following an “inadequate” report from Ofsted inspectors.
The Cadle-Singh-Sullivan cash triangle appears to have been allowed to exist because of inadequate checks and balances over procurement and hiring policy. This reflects very poorly, therefore, on Cadle’s boss, Negrini.
Newman could do well to seek some honest answers from Cadle, a £150,000 per year council employee. Among the questions we have put to Cadle are:
1, It was your decision to appoint Harry Singh to develop the MyCroydon app in 2013, even before he had registered Sensemble as a limited company or had a functioning website. When and how did you and Singh first meet?
2, Which other senior Croydon Council officials, at executive level, provided authorisation for Harry Singh to be taken on by the council after the collapse of Sensemble Ltd in November 2016? Can you provide any documentary evidence for this?
3, Which other senior Croydon Council officials, at executive level, provided authorisation for Harry Singh to be paid £787.36 per day by the council?
4, Why is Harry Singh, who has few if any relevant qualifications or experience for this kind of work, paid at the highest rate of all contractors on the digital enabling project?
5, When did you become godfather to the child of Harry Singh and Karen Sullivan, the head of Revenues and Benefits in your department?
6, Can you show when you first declared to your managers at Croydon Council your personal connection with Singh and Sullivan?
7, How many active projects are there in the Digital and Enabling Programme and which of these are being handled by Harry Singh?
8, How many of those projects were completed and delivered, satisfactorily, by the deadline of June 2017?
9, How much, to date, has been spent on this work?
10, How many staff or contractors, in your department or in IT across the council, will be losing their jobs or work as a result of the decision to off-shore Harry Singh’s MyCroydon operation to India?
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