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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Corruption on Edinbirgh Council - Corruption in Government, Like Dead Fish, Starts from the Head

fraud, wrong-doing and incompetence in the Property Conservation Department at Edinburgh City Council. This department is responsible for overseeing the statutory notice system, that seems unique to Edinburgh, where private buildings with multiple owners (e.g. tenements or blocks of flats), can be issued with a notice by the Council stating that the building is going to be repaired and that the cost will be passed to the owners. These repairs are commonly to roofs, or external masonry not only to make sure that they are wind and water tight, but to make sure that there is no danger to passing pedestrians from falling slates or blocks of stone.
Council surveyors arrange the work through ‘approved contractors’ and recoup the cash from owners, the local authority also receives 15% of the final bill. The value of statutory notices issued by council surveyors has increased dramatically in recent years, from £9.2m in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010, that’s £4.5 million in fees to the Council!
The problems at the Council were first highlighted by a group of old established Edinburgh roofing companies that found that while they were included on the approved lists of contractors, they were no longer receiving any work, despite having a long history of working with the council. One of those companies approached us here at Tenders Direct and it was immediately obvious to us that there were serious problems with the way that the approved lists were being drawn up and the way in which contracts were being awarded.
The companies approached the Council with their concerns and as often happens were given the brush off. This time though the contractors were determined to pursue their claims, as there was little work available elsewhere and one by one these family firms were going out of business as the council work dried up. Eventually they managed to arrange a meeting with Mark Turley, Director of the Council’s Services for Communities, who acknowledged that there was a problem. The Council then appointed Deloitte to carry out an investigation into the running of the department and the Fraud Squad at Lothian & Borders Police is conducting a parallel investigation.
So far 15 members of staff, half the department, have been suspended pending further investigation, but the casualties in this affair may still have a long time to wait for any redress. It will take years to investigate the cases of the residents of Edinburgh who may have been overcharged and/or been subjected to sub-standard workmanship. All repairs, other than emergencies, have been halted, which means that the small family owned building and roofing contractors still don’t have enough work and are struggling to stay in business long enough until the flow of work restarts.
The senior officials and elected members of Edinburgh City Council are culpable in this affair,

   So do we really believe that nobodty in Edinburgh Council knew this had gone up from £9.2 million to £30 million in 4 years? Do we really believe none of the councillors, or anybody in the Scottish government had heard anything of this? Do we really believe none of the people defrauded had made any complaint to anybody in authority?
   Well certainly in the last case the answer is that we cannot because at the same time BBC Scotland did a programme on the subject. Unlike the above they concentrated on the homeowners ripped off rather than the contractors frozen out. That it can be extensively opposed from 2 different directions proves how extensive it is and that it cannot not have been known.
Some quotes from the BBC "Scotland's Property Scandal" {video here] :
There was a leak in the roof and we had a contractor's estimate for repair of £760 - we ended up charged £300,000
BBC hired expert "probably 95% wasn't necessary"
  "          "       "    "doesn't look like there is £300,000 of work there"
"council agreed some of the work didn't need to be done"
"for at least 13 addresses top quality materials were charged but inferior ones used"
"council say hospitality records to 2009 have been lost"
former council employee "contractor offered me a free kitchen"
Action Building Contractors name keeps appearing
they "fabricated" an extra £15,000
Couincil said it was going to ABC because all the other contracors were busy in 2008
other contractors said they were looking for work at the time - start of the recession
"felt like a licence to print money"
     When we know massive corruption exists and is, at best, ignored until there is no alternative the prima facie (latin for "at first face") for any public project going many times over its cost elsewhere in the world simply must be or include fraud (Parliament building  X 10 times cost; Forth bridge X 8 inflation adjusted previous cost; Edinburgh trams X 18 equivalent cost elsewhere).
  Any council official who knew, or in a situation where a reasonable person would have known (eg knowing the charges had gone from £9.5 million to £30 m in 5 years) and who did not formally bring it to the notice of superiors or police should be questioned by the police and fired and prevented from ever working for government again. Usually the job they do and those under them should be closed down since it is clearly one that does not require someone doing useful work.
   Any civil servant caight lying to the public to defend such appare3nt fraud should be fired and lose their pension.
   Any top civil servant who admits fraud saying that it was all their fault and that the politicians were in no way guilty becuase they personally had concealed the fraud from said politicians should be fired and kept out of any government "service". They should never, ever, under any circumstances be rewarded by said politicians, who could have no possible reason to do so unless he were lying to conceal their own fraud and never , ever, whatsoever, under any circumstances be entrusted with any alleged "inquiry" into apparent fraud by climate scientists.
   If, for example, all this happened to "Sir" Muir Russell including his apppintment to head the East Anglia U "Inquiry" into the lies and frauds carried out by Professor Jones and co the prima facie assumption could not be other than that the corruption was not limited to Edinburgh, or to Scotland but that almost the entire British establishment  were personally lying thieving parasites.
     This is the response I put on tne tendersdirect article. It  seems to cover the bases.
When it is obvious and has been for months yet the council refused to act and when half the department are so obviously involved that they have to be suspended then we are not talking about a little corruption. It is not a few rotten apples it is most of the barrel. This only comes about when such corruption is endemic not just in this department but across all the bodies in council who should be noticing it. That includes everybody working there not just all the councillors.
Beyond that we are told how much perseverance the contractors had to show and how, even now, they are likely to be squeezed out. If Edinburgh council is completely corrupt and no other part of the Scottish administration was willing to notice it then it must be endemic everywhere.
Perhaps explains why Scottish public projects, like the Forth Bridge cost 8 times more than their building costs and why the civil service feel they can get away with the most obvious and blatant lies
Here is part of a Wikipedia artricle on what causes the sort of atmosphere where corruption thrives

They include lack of government transparency; media that do not report such things; weak accounting procedures; lack of measurement of corruption; slow pace of reform; lack of comparison with costs incurred by others doing the same; crony relationships between civil servants/politicians and businessmen/party donors.

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