Updated 09.06.22 @09:28am
Charlotte Spendley (pictured), Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s s151 Officer (the council officer with statutory responsibility for the council’s money) has publicly admitted at the Audit & Governance Committee held on 08.06.22, that there are two investigations into financial and contractual management irregularities.
We first brought these “irregularities” to light in our post
Is this evidence of Fraud, Financial Irregularities, Non Compliance @ Folkestone & Hythe District Council?
The first investigation is into contractual & financial irregularities over the Premier Roofing contract overseen by council officer, Anthony Wallner, a Lead Specialist. This investigation has already begun. Wallner is currently suspended and worked in the Housing team, led by Andy Blaszkowicz. In 2021/22 payments of £1.5m were made on a contract with a value of just under £500,000. We first reported on this on the 10 May 2022 and again on the 28 May 2022.
We understand from senior internal council whistleblowers, the person undertaking the investigation into the Premier Roofing contract financial irregularities, is Zoe Law. She is evidence gathering and will report her findings to more senior staff.
Another piece of work, wider in scope is into contract management per se across the whole of the council. Charlotte Spendley is meeting with the head of internal audit of East Kent Audit Partnership, Christine Parker, tomorrow [09.06.22] to set the breadth of the investigation
The second investigation will according to senior council whistleblowers also look at the Operations team, also led by Andy Blaszkowicz (pictured). It’s important to point out, as Andy is Corporate Director for Housing & Operations. We understand Andy’s lover, works in the Human Resources Team, so pillow talk could possibly happen, as they are part of the team leading one of the investigation.
This investigation will include looking at his good friend, Alastair Clifford who employed his brother. We reported on this on May 28 2022. This investigation will also include a good hard look at the council tree team who are alleged to have sold logs collected from their employment to sell to members of the public, without the knowledge or permission of their line manager David Sephton. This investigation will also look at the taking of white goods from void (read empty) council properties by council officers an selling them on, or keeping them without proper authorisation.
Regarding the tree team, we now have more than a dozen witnesses who have informed us they were sold logs by members of the tree team for cash and they pocketed the money, and most definitely did not inform HMRC of their sideline.
The issues raised above do appear to answer the question: From top to bottom is the council rotten?
We’d ask how & why the council, regarding the first investigation is able to ‘mark it’s own homework’ as our public face said to the Chief Executive of FHDC, Dr Susan Priest in a recent email? Any final report is highly likely to be prejudiced we honestly believe. Surely it would be more prudent to get an independent investigator in to do the job, wouldn’t you agree?
At the end of the meeting Charlotte Spendley made it clear the seven years worth of Government Procurement Card (read credit card) data which must be published under the Local Government Transparency Code 2015, is being put together to be published soon.
Reports will have to be issued to both the Audit & Governance Committee and full council just like we said in our blog on May 31 2022:
Two QCs say report must be issued over unlawful expenditure of Premier Roofing & Clifford Carpentry and Interior contracts
So that’s a hat trick for The Shepway Vox Team on getting the council to come clean. Whether any of this information would have ever seen the light of day without our tenacity, and the courage of the senior council whistleblowers, we cannot say. All we can say is: We’ll leave you to decide that.
Update 09.06.22 @09:28am
In the letter the auditor sends to the Chair of Audit & Governance each year – we wrote about this on the 28.05.22 – the first letter failed to mention fraud, contract or financial irregularities. However, since then the letter and the council’s response has been updated and fresh comment highlighted in red.
It now reads as saying:
There have been no known incidents during the financial year where material financial fraud is known to have occurred. [What it said previously]
This is what has been added –
However, there have recently been instances of irregularities identified within the Housing and Operations departments. These matters are subject to separate HR disciplinary and Internal Audit reviews. The nature of the issues relate to contract management and procurement irregularities which are being further investigated.
Housing and Operations departments is led by Andy Blaszkowicz.
Also added is:
We are aware of one related party relationship and have commissioned a review to gain assurance on the details and circumstances of the transactions.
The Shepway Vox Team
Investigating Folkestone & Hythe District Council financial irregularities is NOT a Crime