Saturday, 5 January 2019

Glasgow - Complaints and Investigations



I haven't heard a thing from Glasgow since my letter to the Council's Head of Audit regarding a 'whistleblowing' complaint - see post below dated 01/12/18.

So, maybe the best thing to do is to share the details of the complaint on my blog site in the hope that this might help to 'gee' things up a bit. 

Because Glasgow City Council does have a reputation for 'moving at the speed of a glacier' - and not just over equal pay.


  



Glasgow - Complaints and Investigations (01/12/18)



A 'whistleblower' in Glasgow City Council has sent me a copy of a complaint which involves allegations about the Council's recruitment practices and temporary or 'acting up' payments to senior council officials.

I don't plan to publicise the allegations, at this stage, but I have written to the Council's Head of Audit and Inspection asking to be kept informed of developments and about what action, if any, the Council intends to take once its investigation is completed.

I did this because the Council, in my experience is often very slow at dealing with such matters - the investigation into the foreign trips and expenses of senior council officials being a good example (see posts below).

Unbelievably, as far as I know, the investigation into this particular scandal is still underway, many months after the original allegations were published in The Sunday Herald.

So if I don't hear anything from Mr Black within the next couple of weeks, I'll share details of the whistleblowing complaint on the blog site.

Meantime, I think I'll submit another FoI Request asking about the outcome of the Foreign Trips and Expenses 'investigation' which appears to be moving at the speed of a glacier.


Dear Mr Black

Whistleblowing complaint about senior officers

Thank you for your email and for confirming that the whistleblowing blowing allegations are being fully investigated.

I am not minded to publicise the allegations more widely since the Council appears to be taking them seriously, which is what I would expect.

However, can I ask you to let me know when your investigation is completed and what action, if any, the Council intends to take?

Kind regards


Mark Irvine

  


Glasgow's 'Laughing Stock' Council (07/09/18)



Here is Glasgow City Council's laughable response to my FOI request which asked for further information about an investigation into the expenses claims and foreign trips of senior council officials.

In essence the Council is refusing to release any further information because the investigation in still 'ongoing' -  several months after it first began.

Now we are talking about Scotland's largest and best resourced council, by far, with an annual revenue budget of £1.5 billion, yet Glasgow apparently needs more time to get to the bottom of claims which were splashed all over The Sunday Herald back in April 2018.

So I stand by what I said on the blog site over two months ago - the Council's behaviour smacks of sweeping the whole affair under the carpet along with the issue of 'management oversight' which was highlighted in the original article by The Sunday Herald:

"Council staff are overseen by Chief Executive Annemarie O’Donnell and a small team of directors paid more than £100,000 each. Overseas trips must be authorised by O’Donnell but the council said “approval is not always made in writing” so the council does not always hold written records."


I have to say this is fast becoming Glasgow's favourite excuse when faced with challenging questions, whether in relation to foreign trips or 'golden goodbye' payments to other senior officials, but if you ask me the absence of important records at crucial times is turning the City Council into a local government laughing stock.

Any reasonable person looking at the published information on Glasgow's foreign trips would ask a number of obvious questions:
  • Why were there multiple trips to New York at roughly the same time every year?
  • Why were some of the individual trips so long?
  • Why were senior officials from the same department given permission to be abroad at the same time?
  • Why were trips authorised for unspecified meetings with unspecified investors? 
  • What benefit did these foreign trips bring to Glasgow and how was this 'benefit' assessed?
Now the Council's refusal to answer a straight question about the use of public money is outrageous and anti-democratic, but disturbing as well is the lack of interest shown, so far at least, from Glasgow's 100 local Councillors, MSPs and MPs. 

Let's hope this changes in the weeks ahead because this issue is not going away - and nor am I, not least because I am still battling with Glasgow over a series of FOI requests which senior officials are refusing to answer because to do so would 'allegedly' cost the Council more than £600.

All I can say is that the 'guardians of the public pound' must have been asleep on duty when all these fanciful foreign trips were taking place.



  

     
Dear Mr Irvine

REQUEST FOR REVIEW UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 (“THE ACT”)

Thank you for your email of 9 July 2018 requesting a review of the response by Glasgow City Council (“the Council”) to your request for information under the Act.

YOUR REQUEST


On 12 June 2018 you emailed the Council and requested that the following information be provided to you:

“1) Please provide me the details of which senior officials have been required to pay moneyback to the Council, how much was paid back and when it was paid back?

2) Please provide me with email contact details for the data controllers in Glasgow City Council's ALEOs?”

THE DECISION

The Council emailed you on 30 June 2018 and provided you with a response to your request for information. For ease of reference, the Council’s decision is set out at the Appendix to this letter.

YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW

On 9 July 2018 you emailed the Council requesting a formal review of the decision. Your review request was as follows:

“1) The raw data regarding senior officials' expenses claims is already in the public domain and was reported extensively by The Sunday Herald newspaper on 22 April 2018

2) Whilst I have no wish to undermine an internal investigation that may, or may not, still be underway, I believe it is perfectly fair to expect the Council to have concluded its investigations within the next 20 working days.

3) Clearly there is considerable public interest in the outcome of an investigation which must decide whether any of the Council's senior officials' expenses claims are invalid - and whether any of the public monies involved must be repaid.

4) The City Council has 20 working days to respond to my FOI Review Request which will take us into August 2018.

5) In my view, it is entirely reasonable to expect the Council's internal processes to be completed by that time, especially as the investigation has been underway for several months, i.e. weeks before The Sunday Herald article was published on 22 April, following the newspaper's original FOI Request which brought this matter to public attention.”

THE REVIEW DECISION

I have carried out a full and impartial review of the initial response provided to you. Please be advised that as your request for review relates to information about senior officials’ expensesonly, the scope of this review is limited to that part of your request.

I note the comments made in your review request that ‘it is entirely reasonable to expect the Council’s internal processes to be completed by that time, especially as the investigation hasbeen underway for several months’. Following my investigation, I can confirm that at the timeof writing, the Council’s internal investigation into this matter is ongoing.

I can further confirm that I uphold the Council’s initial decision to withhold the requested information. I agree that the information requested is exempt from a request under section 1 of the Act because of the exemption contained in section 30(c) of the Act. In my opinion, disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, substantially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. I am of the view that release of information relevant to an ongoing investigation could substantially prejudice the investigation. This is because release of the information at this time, would have a significantly disruptive effect on the investigation. Further, there is a legitimate expectation that matters relevant to an ongoing internal investigation would be kept confidential.

In my opinion, there is a real risk that the effectiveness of the investigation would be critically undermined by disclosure of the information that you have requested.

While I believe the exemption contained in section 30(c) of the Act applies in this case, the Council would still be obliged to release the information in response to your request unless the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. I acknowledge the significant public interest in openness and transparency and therefore recognise that any request under section 1 of the Act is potentially in the public interest. However, I also recognise the public interest in protecting the effective conduct of public affairs. In this case, I am of the view that the public interest in protecting the effective conduct of public affairs outweighs the public interest in disclosure of the information.

In reaching my decision, I have taken into account the Scottish Information Commissioner’s guidance ‘Section 30: Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs’. For information, you canaccess the guidance here:

Yours sincerely

ANNEMARIE O’DONNELL


CHIEF EXECUTIVE