Author Topic: SBC CEO Gavin Jones & His Secret Report On Hitesh Patel's Secret DC Directorship  (Read 7300 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Also blogged here: http://www.geoffreid.com/?p=664




Something is still rotten in the Borough of Swindon and, (as most honest people know), you can't bury a bad smell and gangrene doesn't go away if left untreated.

Six months after Talkswindon members publicly asked Swindon Borough Council to explain why its Director of Business Transformation was a Director of Digital City (UK) Ltd before Council leader Roderick Bluh and his fellow Tory Councillor Mark Edwards decided secretly to lend the fledgling WiFi company £450,000 of public money, the town is still waiting for a believable explanation.

I've become a little tired of waiting for the truth to be told and, to be honest, I think the town is rapidly losing patience with the failure of the Digital City and Swindon Council partnership to deliver on its promise of a borough-wide free-to-access wifi system.

Although the scheme was due to be completed by April of this year even the pilot scheme in Highworth remains unfinished and, after 9 months of commercial operation, Charley Morgan of the Swindon Advertiser reports that it has only 'about 40' paying customers.

To date, Councillors who are members of Rod Bluh's Cabinet have repeatedly failed to satisfactorily answer many basic questions about their WiFi scheme, preferring instead to be obfuscatory, evasive or to simply ignore the question and the questioner.  'Political embarrasment' seems the most likely reason for their behaviour, which leaves those of us interested in the 'Wifi'asco' (as it is often called), little choice but to submit Freedom of Information requests to get answers to simple and reasonable questions.

There are many intriguing and unanswered questions surrounding this particular pet-project of Council Leader Roderick Bluh, not least of which is the subject of why the Director of Business Transformation at Swindon Council, Mr Hitesh Patel, became a Director of Digital City (UK) Ltd before he co-authored a 'Cabinet Briefing Note' advising on the provisioning of a £450,000 loan to Digital City (UK) Ltd, but failed to tell Councillors he was already a Director of that company, and subsequently denied being a director of the Company when publicly challenged 5 months later.

I think it's about time Swindon Borough Council started being completely honest with the tax-payers that have funded this scheme and, although I'd prefer to see the Council volunteer the answers to questions that are already several months old, I suspect Cabinet Members and Directors would rather pull their own teeth out before publicly exposing themselves to even more WiFi ridicule.

To this end I have submitted the following Freedom of Information request via the excellent www.whatdotheyknow.com FOI service provided free of charge by www.mysociety.org.

The request is self explantory.  (I have added hyperlinks where relevent)

My request, and any answers to/comments on, can be viewed online by clicking here


Quote
Investigation carried out or commissioned by the Chief Executive (Gavin Jones) and/or the Deputy Chief Executive (Celia Carrington)into the Directorship of Digital City (UK) Ltd held by Swindon Borough Council Director of Business Transformation Mr Hitesh Kumar Patel.

Dear Swindon Borough Council,

Companies House records indicate that Swindon Borough CouncilDirector of Business Transformation, Mr Hitesh Kumar Patel, became a Director of Digital City (UK) Ltd on the 15th of September 2009.

I can find no public record in existence which indicates Mr Patel disclosed his Directorship to Swindon Borough Council before it entered into a 'public/private partnership with Digital City (UK) Ltd despite Mr Patel co-authoring a 'cabinet briefing' note on the 12th of October 2009 concerning the 'provision of a Loan to Digital City (UK,) Limited for the Purpose of Establishing Wi Fi Network Across  the Borough of Swindon

On the 10th of March 2010, at a Swindon Borough Council Cabinet meeting Councillor Peter Greenhalgh asked Mr Patel to confirm that he was a Director of Digital City (UK) Ltd. MrPatel's Directorship of Digital City (UK) Ltd was openly denied despite him having recently updated his 'Linked-In' profile to say:

"Board Director
Digital City (UK) Ltd (Wireless industry)
November 2009 — Present (5 months"


On the 12th of March 2010, (two days after his directorship was publicly denied) a 'TM01' form, (termination of Directorship) was electronically submitted to Companies House terminating Mr Patel's directorship at Digital City (UK)Ltd.

I understand the Chief Executive of Swindon Borough Council, Gavin Jones, immediately ordered that a detailed report be completed which would set out clearly, and accurately a chronology of events that addressed, but was not limited to, the following points:

1.The issue of when Mr Patel became a Director of Digital City.

2. Why Swindon Borough Councillors were misadvised that Hitesh Patel was not a Director of Digital City (UK) Ltd when the public records and Patel's own Linked-In profile clearly show that he was, and that he knew that he was.

3. That Hitesh Patel was a Director of Digital City ahead of the formal decision taken by Swindon Borough Council to lend £450,000 to the company.

4. Whether Mr Patel's Directorship of Digital City (UK) Ltd compromised his position as 'prime negotiator' with Digital City (UK) Ltd,(with Patel being on Swindon Borough Council's side).

5. Whether Mr Patel's undiclosed Directorship at Digital City (UK) Ltd effectively pre-assumed the future decision making of the Swindon Borough Council Cabinet members regarding the loan of £450,000 to the company and the council becoming part-owners of the company.

Please supply a copy of the report.

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Reid




Discuss.....
« Last Edit: August 16, 2010, 01:44:47 pm by Geoff Reid »

Offline Geoff Reid

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Received at 08.45 hrs today

Quote
Customer Services
Swindon Borough Council

16 August 2010

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to the FOI office for response.

Kind regards

Customer Services
Swindon Borough Council
Wat Tyler House
Swindon SN1 2JG
Phone: 01793 445500

Offline Steve Wakefield

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I am aware that a report was undertaken, I and as far as I am aware along with the other back bench councillors did not have sight of the report/file. I believe and I am willing to be corrected on this one, is that only 3 copies existed and one was given to Cllr Montaut.
All posts on this forum are my own and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Bogomil

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To date, Swindon Borough Councillors have repeatedly failed to satisfactorily answer many basic questions about their WiFi scheme,

To be fair Geoff, it’s a bit harsh to tarnish all the councillors on SBC with the same brush. It’s a minority although they are supported by the rest of the councillors from the majority party. IMHO I think many of the opposition councillors are as frustrated as TS’er on this matter, as the refusal of the Perkinator to answer questions at the last council meeting demonstrates.

IMHO I think that something not quite kosher happened along the lines, and by not quite kosher I don’t mean any of the irregularities already revealed through TS and it’s contributors.

The more you look at the whole WiFi fiasco, the unnecessary secrecy that still surrounds the processes, the continued lack of transparency and the refusal to answer, openly and honestly, simple and straightforward questions from both councillors and public alike, the more it starts to looks something akin to the plot behind the “Pelican Brief”

Their fear to reveal even the simplest of details really does look like the fear of the gentle waft of a butterfly’s wing that releases a tornado that god himself cannot stop. Fearful that the most minuscule of information might give TS’s top investigative minds the very lead that’ll break the whole fiasco wide open, they’re using the oldest lag trick in the book, “Say Nothing”. Personally I think something far sinister is being hidden, something that only a few know about and IMHO something that is definitely NOT kosher.

Offline Richard Symonds

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and please remember folks we are about to face an 'Emergency' Budget which makes this loan even more significant.

I urge our Council Leader Rod Bluh to come clean now as any further delay will only makes matters worse for him and his colleagues as this will not go away.

and one final point I wonder what Boris Johnson really made of his meeting with the 'Salesmen' from Swindon and the excuses being made about the delays in Highworth?

Offline Geoff Reid

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To date, Swindon Borough Councillors have repeatedly failed to satisfactorily answer many basic questions about their WiFi scheme,

To be fair Geoff, it’s a bit harsh to tarnish all the councillors on SBC with the same brush.

Thanks for pointing that out, your interpretation of that sentence is not the one I want readers to reach. Post and blog now amended to read:

To date, Councillors who are members of Rod Bluh's Cabinet have repeatedly failed to satisfactorily answer many basic questions about their WiFi scheme, preferring instead to be obfuscatory, evasive or to simply ignore the question and the questioner

Offline Steve Wakefield

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and please remember folks we are about to face an 'Emergency' Budget which makes this loan even more significant.

I urge our Council Leader Rod Bluh to come clean now as any further delay will only makes matters worse for him and his colleagues as this will not go away.

and one final point I wonder what Boris Johnson really made of his meeting with the 'Salesmen' from Swindon and the excuses being made about the delays in Highworth?

Richard short and to the point.  (My blog post link http://tinyurl.com/28hxudk) which I have cut and pasted for you.

Will Swindon wi-fi the London Olympics in 2012? What I thought was that I had long written the last  blog post on the Swindon Wif-fi  project but read more here on where it is going London Bathgate has also been mentioned but Boris is seeking advice:  http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8332274.Boris_learns_more_about_Swindon_s_wi_fi_experiences/?ref=mr

What I find difficult to understand here  is there any political gain being made here for Boris Mayor of London by having the leader of SBC involved in this meeting? I recall this Swindon Advertiser article about politics impacting on the business?

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/local/5043119.Wi_fi_row_rumbles_on_for_politicians/

And

Des Morgans letter that pointed out the pitfalls of joint deals with councils, which are political organisations. 

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/yoursay/swindonletters/5049338.Letter_from_Des_Morgan/

Politics is involved in this as the Conservative administration has appointed Cllr Perkins to the Board in Lieu of The Director of Business Transformation referred to in this thread. When cllr Garry Perkins was appointed to the board he became the council's representative for all that is wifi. I fully accept that appointment and I recall when the leader was asked a question at full council he referred the questioner to  Cllr Perkins as the representative on the board. So why then was Cllr Perkins not at London, meeting Boris? Incidentally, which I believe would be perfectly acceptable for him to do so in what capacity is the stumbling point for me.

As a councillor I personally, would find it difficult  to justify this visit as an approved cllr duty and therefore would not claim expenses for the travel to London. Maybe a reason for approved duty was that the council leader was only deputising for the Company representative on the board? It still leaves the question for approved duty "In what capacity was he acting"  Is it  company rep on the board or as leader of the Council? It causes me some confusion. As you can see Richard has referred to the salesmen, so I think that adds some weight to the point. I am probably barking up the wrong tree and it falls within an approved duty? As I have not made any claims recently it may be I am a little rusty and have a lack of understanding that is prompting these questions?

If Rod is there as a politician and Rikki is with him is this a political visit or as Richard points out a sales visit? If it was a council visit  then the leader could have attended as the Deputy for Garry (If that is possible under company law?) and taken along Cllr Montaut and Cllrs Stan Pajack as they are group leaders to represent the council? Maybe they were all asked Cllrs Perkins, Montaut, and Pajack, that is but were unable to attend? If they could not they could have sent deputies?

I do not mind admitting it, but as an elected member of a council, which is a political organisation. Personally  I am having difficulty getting to grips with all the intricacies these new types of relationships that the leader talks of. Especially  when the council loans public tax payers money to them  and becomes a major shareholder in a company. This new way of working certainly cause me some confusion? :embarassed:

There is more here on www.talkswindon.org
« Last Edit: August 16, 2010, 06:19:32 pm by Steve Wakefield »
All posts on this forum are my own and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Mellon

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If your confused Mr Wakefield.......ask him to clarify his official relationships with private sector companies
"Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the world together."

Offline Steve Wakefield

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If your confused Mr Wakefield.......ask him to clarify his official relationships with private sector companies

Is that the same person you are talking about, who did not show 50 odd cllrs the business plan, or the investigation at the centre of this thread, or answer section 15 questions from cllr Wright at full council, but referred him to the wifi company oh and before I forget changed the progress measures?

All posts on this forum are my own and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline komadori

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Swindon Borough Council are now the subject of a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office for failure to reveal information relating to the wifi deal.
If something's worth doing it's worth doing in green. komadori's green c

Offline Mellon

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If your confused Mr Wakefield.......ask him to clarify his official relationships with private sector companies

Is that the same person you are talking about, who did not show 50 odd cllrs the business plan, or the investigation at the centre of this thread, or answer section 15 questions from cllr Wright at full council, but referred him to the wifi company oh and before I forget changed the progress measures?

sounds like subjective defeat to me Mr Wakefield, whats wrong with asking the question?? im not referring to anyone other than Councillor Bluh. you seemed to have backed away from the question i was initially asking, i dont fall prey easily to political smoke and mirrors. i shall ask again in all politeness and niceyness.....why dont you ask him Mr Wakefield is it not better to ask a question for clarification?
"Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the world together."

Offline Geoff Reid

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Swindon Borough Council are now the subject of a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office for failure to reveal information relating to the wifi deal.

They've had plenty of chances, dozens actually, to engage willingly and transparently with the tax paying electorate of Swindon.

I'm sure this will not be the only complaint about Swindon Borough Council lodged with the Information Commissioners Office.

Offline Steve Wakefield

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Mellon Question will be asked  O0
All posts on this forum are my own and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Richard Symonds

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I am aware that a report was undertaken, I and as far as I am aware along with the other back bench councillors did not have sight of the report/file. I believe and I am willing to be corrected on this one, is that only 3 copies existed and one was given to Cllr Montaut.

Does anyone know if Derique Montaut has ever owned up to having received a copy of this report and if so why he hasn't discussed it with the Labour Group?

Offline Geoff Reid

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Does anyone know if Derique Montaut has ever owned up to having received a copy of this report and if so why he hasn't discussed it with the Labour Group?

I expect the Rodigarch, flanked by Gav1n Jones, instructed him not to.  Gagged by the quill pen democracy which used: 'We'll show you but you have to promise not to tell anyone about it'.

Curiosity killed the councillor.

Offline ph1lc

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Two of Gavin Jones key responsibilities as listed on the Council website are

Ensure the proper use of council resources to deliver value for money for the community across a wide range of services from child adoption to looking after older people

Work with councillors to ensure the ethical standards, probity and integrity of decision making in the Council are of the highest order


Mr Jones needs to publish his report in ordre to show that he has not shirked his responsibilities.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Two of Gavin Jones key responsibilities as listed on the Council website are

Ensure the proper use of council resources to deliver value for money for the community across a wide range of services from child adoption to looking after older people

Work with councillors to ensure the ethical standards, probity and integrity of decision making in the Council are of the highest order


Mr Jones needs to publish his report in ordre to show that he has not shirked his responsibilities.

Well that proves his job description is more important than I had realised and I agree he is duty bound to publish.

But nevermind we all know where the power lies and he would not dare to do so

or will he?

Offline Geoff Reid

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Just to be clear on one point:

I have not requested, (by FOI), the report submitted to cabinet referred to here:

Quote
6.3 The Chief Executive has received the initial findings of the investigation and is confident that the findings support the body of this report and Cabinet can be confident in the veracity of the information above. It is the Chief Executive’s intention to share this report with the Leaders of the Political Party groups on a confidential basis prior to the Cabinet meeting.

I have requested the report compiled or authored by Celia Carrington and/or Gavin Jones which was apparently distributed to Cllr's Bluh, Pajak and Montaut.

If: "The Chief Executive has received the initial findings of the investigation and is confident that the findings support the body of this report and Cabinet can be confident in the veracity of the information above" then I fail to see how the public interest is served by keeping part of this secret.

I am afraid I am long past the point where I take the word of an SBC Director or Cabinet member without seeing it in writing and employees of the Borough Council, Council Tax payers and electors all deserve complete transparency from an administration which is about to make many people redundant and cut services to others.....

....Especially so when a report ordered by the Chief executive concerning the highly paid officer at the centre of the redundancy program, Hitesh Patel, remains secret and unpublished.   

Personally speaking I find Patels explanation for his 'unknown directorship' of Digital City very difficult to believe, especially as this man is supposedly employed to be a consumate professional. We need to know whether he is as stupid as he has already admitted, or actually lacks the skillset to function effectively at his paygrade. 

Sparing the leader of political embarrasment or Patels Blushes for stupidity are not valid reasons for reports concerning his actions to remain secret, in fact, the longer this drags on the redder and hotter those blushes are likely to become.

'Fess up.


Offline ph1lc

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Totally agree Geoff.

We must be told at least whether Patel made any personal gain from his directorship at D.C.?

That will let us know if we are dealing with impropriety or just incompetence. Either way I find it hard to see how someone who holds Patel's position at the council can sign an appointment of director form - the statement aboce his signature clearly reads " I agree to serve as a director..." and not know what he has signed, or is Patel claiming his signature is forged.

As to Patels preparing a report to the Council whilst being a director of D.C. this is a serious abuse of process, one that questions the validity of SBC's right to advance any money to D.C.

I do know that as an accountant, were I to act in the way Patel did, with such an obvious and serious conflict of interest then I would face serious diciplinary action, and probable disbarrment.

Gavin Jones continued failure to publish this report is grounds in itself for an application for Judicial Review of the Councils decision.

Spill the beans Gav - or face the Judge - your choice!!!

Offline Richard Symonds

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I am afraid I am long past the point where I take the word of an SBC Director or Cabinet member without seeing it in writing and employees of the Borough Council, Council Tax payers and electors all deserve complete transparency from an administration which is about to make many people redundant and cut services to others.....

....Especially so when a report ordered by the Chief executive concerning the highly paid officer at the centre of the redundancy program, Hitesh Patel, remains secret and unpublished.   

Sparing the leader of political embarrasment or Patels Blushes for stupidity are not valid reasons for reports concerning his actions to remain secret, in fact, the longer this drags on the redder and hotter those blushes are likely to become.


The above leads me to ask the following question.

Is it possible that following the implementation of the the 1,000 or is it 3,000 redundancies that are required to balance the budget that Mr Patel will fall on his sword having previously agreed an acceptable severance package?

 

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