CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

We need more openness from our local council

07 February, 2019

• I NOTE with interest the letter, (Councillors should be held to account more regularly, January 24). Well, here are a few examples where a little more transparency, even when things go wrong, would not only enhance the council’s standing among local people, it would also demonstrate the council’s commitment to “openness”, and recognition of the people it is legally required to serve.

Firstly, whatever happened to the £2.5million said to have been paid out in compensation to a private company for a botched tendering procedure, now that the courts have thrown out the council’s attempt to blame a junior officer for the fiasco? So far as the public are concerned this matter seems to have been swept under the carpet.

A similar “problem” (involving a slightly larger sum, perhaps) occurred in the early 1990s within days of me trying to take responsibility for highways in Camden. My recollection of that incident is that after detailed investigations, about 10 employees were arrested by the police.

Further inquiries revealed that the council’s procedures were “defective” and the police came to the conclusion that the chance of successfully prosecuting the people arrested was negligible. The council then terminated the services of several employees, some were suspended for a period of time and others given final written warnings.

Major changes were then made to the tendering procedures to prevent a recurrence of the “problem”. There were no further problems until I retired from the council about 10 years later. I am given to understand that all the changes I made to contract procedures were reinstated within a few years of my leaving Camden.

Finally, whatever happened to the promised “full and transparent” investigation into the botched refurbishment of the “Chalcots” back in 2017? Until the council is open, and transparent, in all its dealings with local people such procedural and financial catastrophes, are very likely to continue to recur.

DUGALD GONSAL
Chartered Engineer

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