Poplar Papers 2 – The Summer Youth Programme 2016

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During the Clear Up nomination period (8 September – 8 December 2016) the independent Clear Up Team received 66 allegations purported to indicate improper Council decision making or impropriety in the discharge of Council functions.

The Project was overseen by the Clear Up Board .

This comprised four members; three new Tower Hamlets Statutory Officers – the Chief Executive (and Clear Up Board Chair) [Will Tuckley], the Chief Finance Officer [Zena Cooke] and the Interim Monitoring Officer [Graham White], and, to ensure independence, one Commissioner from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG).

Case Ref No CU 023 a complete sham

Every year the Youth Service organises a Summer Programme of events to keep people engaged. Which is what you would expect a Youth Service to do, right?

Community groups across the borough then propose projects they could run such as an urban sports day, a summer football camp, Young Chef cooking lessons, all sorts. Their bids are assessed on certain criteria, scored and the best ones get the work. Everybody benefits.

You can download the programme for the most recent Summer Programme here – 335 free activities! Good eh?

Well sort of. Because Clean Up Board allegation CU 023 was that the procurement process for the Summer Youth Programme 2016 was a complete sham.

Three Council officers were directly involved:
– Ronke Martins-Taylor, Interim Head of Youth Service
– Claire Belgard, Youth Service Development Manager
– Mark Edmunds, Investigator

“I was aware of it but did not read it”

You may remember Ronke Martins-Taylor as the person who, despite leading on the review of Youth Services and to align it to the issues emerging from the PwC audit report published in November 2014 she had never read it. “I was aware of it [the report] but did not read it” she said when questioned by Francis Hoare during the Employment Tribunal.

LW was there. We heard her say that. Have a read.

If we had not heard it with our own ears we would not have believed this statement.

“The finish was more important than the task”

Later on Ms. Martins-Taylor referred to the Youth Services Project Group meeting under discussion as “a Task and Finish group.”

Task and Finish group? This is a recognised term as explained by Cheshire East Council.

Francis Hoare made the observation that “The important task of the group was to finish a task at a specific timescale. I suggest the finish was more important than the task.” Ms. Martins-Taylor disagreed.

Remember this detail because it is super important.

Here are some highlights of what went on.

  1. Procurement procedures were not followed
  2. It was not known if some of the organisations were of concern to the Metropolitan Police or Counter Terrorism Command (yes, Counter Terrorism.)
  3. There was no agreed criteria level for the procurement procedure so one was made up
  4. The scoring process was fabricated
  5. One of the evaluators – Mark Edmunds – was pressured by his colleagues when he refused to sign off a procurement document he knew was false
  6. Providers did not deliver what they were paid to deliver
  7. Those providers whose applications were not successful were treated unfairly and may well be able to sue Tower Hamlets Council for damages as for breaching European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) regulations.

Guess what? The Clear Up Board decided that there was nothing really that bad about all this and so there was no need to discipline any Council officers.

Not even a slap on the wrist. Everything in order then. Absolutely not.

Here’s the section of the Clean Up board report that deals with CU 023 with the key issues numbered by East End Enquirer. Click the image to get a full size version.

Annotated screen grab from Poplar Papers evidence bundle from the Clean Up project report for allegation CU 023.

Below are the findings for CU 023 in Annex A: Summary of Findings and Recommendations from Allegations received by the Clear Up Project  in text format for your maximum reading pleasure.

Remember this is the official published report of the Clear Up Board.

Summary of Allegations Summer Youth Programme 2016

Summary of Allegation

Allegation that in relation to the Summer Youth Programme 2016 (“SYP16”):
(i) procurement procedures were not followed for the Evaluation Panel decision;
(ii) providers delivering the programme were not monitored effectively; and
(iii) providers did not deliver what they were paid for.

Here are the Clear Up Board findings with our comments below.

Summary of Findings

(1) “A scoring threshold was introduced by the Evaluation Panel which had not been specified in the Invitation To Tender (“ITT”), and there was no rationale for the level at which it was set.”

LW Comment: The scoring threshold was invented. By who and why? This has never been disclosed.

(2) “The individual scores included in the evaluation matrix for the SYP16 provided to the Procurement Team, which were purported to be the outcome of the Evaluation Panel had been fabricated by one of the evaluators in order to make the total percentage score for each applicant (nearly) match the total percentage score for each applicant that had previously been incorrectly calculated. The providers selected to be awarded the contract would have been different if correct procurement procedures had been followed.”

LW Comment: Someone invented the scores. Who and why? This has never been disclosed.

(3) “The Procurement Team accepted the explanation provided by one evaluator [Ronke Martins-Taylor] regarding why another evaluator [Mark Edmunds] had not signed the evaluation outcome, without confirming the explanation directly with the evaluator who had not signed [Mark Edmunds]. There is a risk that the true reasons for the lack of a signature could have been misrepresented.

LW Comment: Cross-referencing the Poplar Papers evidence bundles we have added the evaluators names which were not in the Clear Up Team final report. You can see these in the PDF document below.

(4) “No analysis was undertaken to consider value for money, or to assess whether or not the providers had delivered what they had proposed in their applications.”

LW Comment: If there was no analysis to consider value for money or if the providers could do what they said they could, what was going on here?

Recommendations for Further Action Agreed by the Clear Up Board

(5) “The Corporate Director for Children’s Services [Debbie Jones] should be requested to consider the oversight of outcomes from Youth Service activity and how value for money is being measured and monitored.”

LW Comment: ‘Consider oversight?’ What did Debbie Jones do in response to this? Where is this documented?

(6) “Internal Audit is requested to undertake a review of the next procurement process involving Evaluators 1 [Ronke Martins-Talor] and 2 [Claire Belgard], in order to gain assurance that lessons have been learned and the same issues are not continuing to be repeated.”

LW Comment: Was this ever done by Internal Audit?

(7) “The Chief Executive [Will Tuckley] is to speak with the Corporate Director [Debbie Jones] regarding oversight of the team, and to consider whether it is appropriate and proportionate to take any action in relation to two of the evaluators [Ronke Martins-Taylor Claire Belgard], including the provision of further training regarding procurement procedures or any disciplinary action.

LW Comment: Did Will Tuckley, the most senior officer in Tower Hamlets Council speak with Corporate Director Debbie Jones? If so what was said? What if any consideration was given to disciplinary action?

To help you further understand what was going on here and the marked difference in attitude between Mark Edmunds and his colleagues Ronke Martins-Taylor, Interim Head of Youth Service and Claire Belgard, Youth Service Development Manager towards the integrity of the process here is some of the email correspondence between them. Court ordered redactions in black, East End Enquirer emphasis in red.

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No comment? Or further attempt at covering up the truth?

In our previous incarnation as Love Wapping, East End Enquirer asked Tower Hamlets Council to provide us (and you) with answers to the questions in our comments some time ago.

As usual they have not replied in an attempt to stop us publishing.

Doesn’t seem to be working that plan, does it?

One question that all Tower Hamlets residents may be asking is “What was the point of a Clear Up Board that didn’t do anything when they found something? Did it happen again?”

Well funny should ask that question…

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