Tower Hamlets Council – more allegations from witness statement

Note: This story now contains redactions as required by the Employment Tribunal and the current media Reporting Restrictions Order (RRO) which has been extended for seven days.
The witness statement made by Mark Edmunds at the East London Employment Tribunal referenced in yesterday’s story has 201 paragraphs. In most paragraphs there are at least one and often several allegations of irregular conduct by senior Council officers and Labour councillors.
Below are some verbatim extracts from this witness statement with screen grabs of the statement. No comments, no extra emphasis, no explanation, no nothing. Much of yesterday’s story was copied directly from the witness statement, there may be some duplication but other allegations are unpublished until now.
A paragraph number is indicated like this 123 and this (#322–326) is a reference to an evidence bundle which is not yet in the public domain at the current time.

Extracts from witness statement of Mark Edmunds

10 At the time I thought the DAAT [Drug & Alcohol Action Team] was in a malaise which required a complete overall. At a meeting with Andy Bamber in October 2015 (shortly before the resignation of Lisa Garwood) I reported that performance dropped and after further examination I concluded that the data were being manipulated or altered after submission by the various treatment providers as there were noticeable differences in the data collected at the local level from treatment providers and that reported to the NTA/PHE. However, Andy Bamber believed no investigation action was necessary as there was an external consultant reviewing the DAAT and treatment services and most staff had resigned.
11 However, in hindsight, the DAAT and some of the treatment provider services appear to have been arranged in a similar in such a way to the Youth Service and external suppliers which allowed Local Authority funds to be distributed without monitoring and scrutiny.

30 By September 2014 I had established some initial findings which indicated that internal systems and controls had been circumvented to recruit some undesirable individuals and that serious malpractice was endemic in the Youth Service (e.g. payments made to fictitious organisations and staff members and the circumvention of procurement, recruitment and financial procedures and processes). It was also very obvious that no simple checks had been made to establish the legitimacy of the various organisations and payments (#251–278). Further work established that there were identified links between Youth Service staff and the identified organisations of concern (#285) which led to a series of staff investigations involving numerous staff from the Youth Service including Dinar Hossain, Name Redacted, Habibur Rahman, Name Redacted, Name Redacted, Name Redacted, Name Redacted and Name Redacted (#322–326). Further work showed the size and scale of the corruption and those involved (#330–360 and #361–384) and, as the work developed, I became concerned that key centralised services such as HR and Internal Audit had not delivered or fulfilled their protective functions. For example, unsuitable and unqualified individuals were recruited to posts and key financial checks (credit card spends) failed to be conducted.

54 In April 2015 a LBTH property (9B Burslem Street) came under attention of investigators working on the Youth Service corruption case (#589). The property was controlled by Cllr Shaled Ali but the address was also used by a number of fictitious organisations (e.g. Young Routes and CTUK) which had received funds from the Youth Service. On 1 December 2015 the possession of the property was recovered and secured by LBTH officers following complaints by local residents (#648). During this recovery exercise a large quantity of drugs was found. Further work by trading standards also identified other companies operating from the premises, including Stolen Land Limited (#649/#650). I referred this information to Andy Bamber on the same day (2 December 2015) confirming that the company directors (Khaled Sadique and Thamemul Haque) were members of the Youth Service (#651).

91 Therefore, I strongly believe that LBTH failed to investigate my concerns for several reasons. Firstly, I believe it was due to the nature of the investigations I was working on as many of officers I was investigating were closely aligned to Council Members so by not taking my concerns seriously and ignoring them implied that my worth to the organisation was negligible and as such exerted pressure on me to consider leaving the organisation.

93 On 17 December 2015 I sent the finalised copy of the disciplinary investigation report involving Habibur Rahman to Andy Bamber which contained findings of serious fraudulent activities such as falsification of timesheets, submitting false pay claims and the involvement of drafting and submitting of illicit funding proposals (#1307-#1319). Some four months later, on 14 April 2016, Habibur Rahman was dismissed (#1320–1321). However, on 16 May 2016 he appealed (#1324–1#325), and he was reinstated by Cllr. Danny Hassell (Chair of the Appeals Sub Committee) on 14 November 2016 (#1326-#1328).
94 When I heard the news that Habibur Rahman had been reinstated I could not believe it and I was totally shocked about how anyone could be reinstated given the weight of evidence against him. One of the reasons provided by Cllr. Danny Hassell in his letter was that I as the Investigation Officer had failed to interview anyone that Habibur Rahman had suggested that I speak to as his witnesses. However, I was not required to interview them as I had enough evidence which I had secured from accessing his LBTH email account. In fact, Habibur Rahman could have called any of his witnesses to support him at his disciplinary hearing which he chose not to. Therefore, I found the appeal outcome difficult to understand. I was also concerned how Habibur Rahman’s reinstatement would affect me personally as he was the officer whom I believed had followed me to work aggressively in his vehicle on 6 June 2016 – an allegation I had made which had never been investigated. It all seemed very odd, and concerning, that the Council was willing to reinstate an officer who had committed fraud against his employer while the Council could not complete a risk assessment and put safety measures in place for me (as an Investigating Officer).

117 One of the allegations I made to the Commissioners and Clean Up Team concerned procurement irregularities involving the commissioning of external services to provide the Summer Programme for the Youth Service. On 10 June 2016 Claire Belgard had asked me to join her and Ronke Martins Taylor on the tender evaluation panel on 29 June 2016 for the Summer Programme (#1564). However, at the panel I became very concerned how the various external organisations were being awarded scores which did not reflect the information presented and there was a large mis-match between the scores awarded by Ronke Martins Taylor and Claire Belgard compared to myself with the former awarding high scores while I awarded low scores. However, at the panel meeting Ronke Martins-Taylor attempted to pressurise me by saying that we needed to select enough organisations to deliver the required services – despite many of the applications having missing or inadequate information which meant it was impossible to give them a score which would equate to awarding them a contract to conduct the required work.
118 At this point Ronke Martins-Taylor looked particularly angry when she said that she would need to inform the Mayor (John Biggs) that the Summer Programme would not be going ahead as we could not make a decision. I informed her that the panel was being held late and had insufficient time built into the process to allow for such issues to be addressed. I also informed her that I had spent the last couple of years investigating officers who had said that previous Youth Service managers had similarly pressurised them. Therefore, I refused to be brow-beaten by her and stood my ground at which she looked visibly annoyed and told me she would report the matter to the Debbie Jones and the Mayor.

155 Despite many Youth Service officers being investigated (#1786-#1787) and large sums of money being syphoned from the public purse (#1761-#1763), investigations and outcomes were contained and controlled (#1755-#1760) with few referred to the DBS (#1788) and none resulting in prosecution – meaning external scrutiny and exposure did not occur. I believe the following information shows that the corruption in the Youth Service was a long-standing issue, which was never effectively addressed and punished – with some officers seemingly rewarded for their wrongdoing.
156 In 2010 an investigation involving the Head of the Youth Service and Deputy Head of Service (Dinar Hossain and Name Redacted) was conducted to investigate serious breaches of financial and procurement regulations and code of conduct after a payment of £35,000 was made to an organisation (Shade Consultancy) which was controlled by a former Youth Service employee. I believe that this was prototype on which future money syphoning from the Youth Service and other departments was later based. Neither officer was dismissed despite the disciplinary findings against them (#1789 –1800).

The hearing continues.
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