Nearly two months since a formal Town Hall investigation was begun into how one of the council’s most senior executives could hire a family friend on £787 per day without declaring their relationship, and the Borough Solicitor is still to deliver a ruling on the matter.
Inside Croydon exclusively revealed the scandal in October, reporting how Croydon’s assistant chief executive, Graham Cadle, was overseeing juicy payments for IT work to Harwinder “Harry” Singh. Cadle is the godfather to Singh’s child; the child’s mother, Karen Sullivan, is the council’s head of revenues and benefits who also reports to Cadle. None of the three ever voluntarily declared their cosy relationship, as would usually be required under the council’s code of conduct and most employment contracts. A simple breach of contract over a matter such as this, involving such large sums of public money, would normally require dismissal.
The Borough Solicitor, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, had ordered an investigation into the affair earlier this year, following concerns being raised by a whistle-blower. Confronted with the facts, the trio retrospectively declared their relationship… and then carried on as if nothing had changed.
In the meantime, Singh has been hard at work off-shoring to India much technical work on the council’s computer system, in a cost-cutting move which is seeing locally based IT technicians losing their work in Croydon just before Christmas. As also reported by Inside Croydon, Jo Negrini, the council’s chief executive, appears to believe that there is no risk to the personal data of tens of thousands of Croydon Council Tax-payers, parking permit applicants, but which IT experts working at the council’s say has “opened the door” to Croydon’s live data.
“We have opened up and given carte blanche access on the promise that the data will be kept secure,” they said, adding that Negrini has been “misinformed” over these serious security matters.
All of which has now been reported in the latest issue of Private Eye, which is clearly fascinated in how a senior council officer can get away with paying a family friend at a day rate equivalent to £200,000 per year for a role for which their qualifications are at best dubious – anyone used Singh’s MyCroydon crap app lately? No? We thought not – and how the latest council cabinet meeting was blithely accepting an overspend on the late-running Singh-managed project of £700,000.
Negrini’s senior council officials, previously reluctant to investigate one of their colleagues, were forced to do so in October when Sean Fitzsimons, the Labour councillor who chairs the scrutiny committee, took the concerns of the IT whistleblower to Harris-Baker. The Borough Solicitor ordered a second investigation into the conduct of Cadle, Singh and Sullivan.
Since when… tumbleweed.
“The council’s senior executives are a law unto themselves,” one senior Katharine Street source said today. “This is just another example of how out of control Negrini and her colleagues are – virtually untouchable by the likes of the so-called ‘strong leader’ Tony Newman and councillors. That’s how we arrived at the Ofsted crisis over children’s services: senior officers just lied to cover their arses.”
The fantasy that Croydon’s councillors have any control over the full-time professional staff running Fisher’s Folly is highlighted in the widely read “Rotten Boroughs” column in the latest issue of the Eye, which reports, “Having a council executive paying a family friend £787.36 per day is ‘a model of behaviour for other councils’, according to Croydon’s cabinet member for finance, Simon Hall…
“… Hall revealed that the project had overspent its £8.4m budget by at least £700,000 and won’t be completed until next year – at least nine months late. According to Hall, this was delivering, ‘ICT infrastructure at lesser cost and with a lot more control’.”
Hall, like all members of the council’s cabinet, is reliant on detailed briefings from senior council officials. Often, indeed, the very same people who created the mess.
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