Former Merton Council leader David Williams 'on hunt for truth' amid corruption claims
An interim report into alleged corruption at Merton Council has sparked outrage after auditors recommended 'forensic analysis' would not be cost effective.
Last year a whistleblowing dossier, purporting to be from six council officers, alleging malpractice, corruption and unlawfulness in the hiring of consultants saw the council employ Ernst & Young to conduct an independent investigation.
The whistleblowers claim chief executive Ged Curran and elected members were deliberately misled by a senior officer, whose actions allegedly saw the mis-spending of £1.29m of taxpayers’ money.
None of those accused of misconduct have been suspended during the investigation.
An interim report from Ernst & Young received last Wednesday stated the investigation has not "involved forensic analysis of the email accounts and electronic data held by the individuals on laptops ... or bank accounts of the named individuals."
It added it did not believe it was cost effective to do so, as rates paid to the consultants "do not appear to be materially different from the market rates for such services, any potential financial benefit derived is relatively modest."
The news was met with derision by opposition councillors angry with the way the investigation has been conducted both by the council and Ernst & Young.
Conservative members claim hiring procedure, the Vacancy Control Procedure, in place in 2010, has been scrapped and would have stopped any potential malpractice.
UKIP councillors are demanding answers over the nature of the investigation.
Merton Council has refused to answer questions about hiring processes and procedures saying it would be premature to do so until a full report was made public.
A spokeswoman said a procedure for recruiting consultants has been in place since March 2010.
Former council leader, Conservative Councillor David Williams, said: "I am on the hunt for the truth.
"Some of the people are on a day rate that we pay the chief executive.
"When I say that the council has lost control of the finances it is because the wages bill is the biggest element of council services.
"If you haven't got control of this, you haven't got control of the finances."
The full independent report into the claims is not due for another few weeks.
Councillor Suzanne Evans, UKIP leader in Merton said: "Merton’s Labour councillors appeared to be rubbing their hands with glee at Ernst & Young’s recommendation, as if their only concern was not to have any hint of wrongdoing on their watch."
When asked why those allegedly involved were not suspended pending an investigation, the council spokesperson said: "When a whistleblowing allegation is made, an initial investigation is carried out first and if evidence comes to light which suggests there is merit in the allegations, then suspension is considered.
"In this case, the allegations have been very seriously investigated by the auditors over the last two and a half months, and at no time has any evidence come to light which suggests corruption, malpractice or unlawful expenditure.
"Hence there has been no reason to suspend any member of staff."
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