A Labour council has admitted that its “leadership, culture and openness” must improve as an MP accused officials of taking kickbacks in an alleged £2 million pavement “scam”.
Four Harrow Council employees were arrested last August on suspicion of fraud and abusing their position after a builder received the contract.
The officials, plus a fifth man who did not work for the council and was arrested in December, have been bailed amid an ongoing police investigation.
The issue first emerged when it became apparent that some streets had only been repaired on one side.
Arrests were subsequently made after the council received a covert video, filmed by a whistleblower, of an interaction between staff and a contractor that the council said “[suggests] those involved may have received inappropriate financial benefits”.
An internal memo issued to Harrow councillors and seen by this newspaper confirmed that the council commissioned an internal review, which began in September 2021, into “what lessons should be learned”.
“The review will include assessment of the procurement, financial management, governance, controls and decision making in relation to transactions which have caused concern, to include whether improvements need to be made,” the document reads.
“Recommendations for changes by the Directorate or the whole Council [are] to include the willingness of staff to report inappropriate behaviour, leadership, culture, management and openness.”
Also included in the scope of the review was an examination of the “structure and culture” of its Traffic Highways and Asset Management Team, which is understood to have let go of a number of its staff since the council was handed the whistleblower’s footage.
Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East, said he had been inundated by residents with complaints about poor quality workmanship.
‘Culture of poor governance’
Mr Blackman this week raised the issue in Parliament as he accused council staff of “receiving kickbacks” after the £2 million sum “was given to contractors [despite] contractors not actually doing the work”.
“There’s a culture of poor governance and these guys obviously thought they could get away with it,” he told The Telegraph. “They saw a lax attitude and thought they had nothing to lose.”
“The outrage is that Harrow Council has the second highest council tax in London and amongst the worst services in London. A key concern is that money basically has been stolen from council taxpayers, it appears for personal gains.”
Mark Spencer, the Commons leader, vowed that the Government would “take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a good record of transparency, probity, scrutiny and accountability is maintained across councils in this country”.
A spokesman for Harrow Council said: “Harrow council has a zero-tolerance to any form of corruption and is cooperating fully with the Met Police on this matter. We will not be making any further comment at this stage as this is a live investigation.”
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )