Monday 15 January 2018

The Mystery of the Carbon Copy

This is a mystery and if anyone can shine more light on it please feel free to comment on this post.

Some years ago I had brought to my attention a carbon copy of a sworn affidavit sent anonymously to a friend. It could have been an elaborate forgery but investigation showed that all the people mentioned did exist, and the affidavit certainly had been written and was notated by a solicitor who was still in practice and was contacted.

The original events described happened in 1994 in Boston, Lincolnshire. Ms A did not write the affidavit until December 1997, when Mr Mark James was due to be appointed as the as the Chief
Executive of Boston Borough Council,
Here is the affidavit with some names withheld. Ms A seems to have done this after what she believed was severe harassment and being forced out of her job. She also knew that Mark James was about to become the local Council Chief Executive.
I, Ms A, of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Lincolnshire MAKE OATH and say as follows; 
1. I was employed by Boston Borough Council from 1985 until May 1997 when I was retired on the grounds of ill-health. During my period of employment I was engaged in various posts, but from 1992 until my retirement I was employed in the Personnel Section. 
2. During the period August/September 1993 various members of staff were interviewed regarding the restructuring of certain departments. Included in these interviews was Officer A who was employed as Assistant Solicitor to the Council. I was present throughout his interview with Mark James (Director of Administration and Legal Services) and Officer B (Director of Finance). It was clear from the discussion which took place after the interview that Mark James did not want Officer A to continue to be employed by the Council in any capacity. 
3. Officer A was made redundant by the Council sometime between September 1993 and May 1994. A subsequently took his case to an Industrial Tribunal, the hearing of which commenced on the 16th May 1994. One of the arguments put forward by Officer A was that the Council had never written to him offering a particular post and with details of the job specification. 
4. The day before the hearing of the Industrial Tribunal, Officer C the then Personnel Manager (and my immediate superior officer) told me that Mark James had given instructions that I was to type a letter addressed to Officer A offering him a particular post with the Council, and enclosing with it a job description. I was told that the instructions from Mark James were that the letter was to be back-dated to a date in September 1993. I told Officer C that what I was being asked to do was wrong and I was not prepared to comply with Mr James' instructions. I was informed that if I did not comply with such instructions it was very likely that I would be dismissed. As I was in fear of losing my job I carried out the instruction, but to safeguard myself I typed on the disc containing the letter words to the effect that "this letter was actually typed on the .....". I was told to file a copy of the letter on the appropriate file in date order but that the original was to be destroyed. 
5. I am informed that at Officer A's Industrial Tribunal, Mr James gave evidence on oath that the letter in question had been typed and sent to Officer A in September 1993. This was not possible as Mr James knew full well that I did not type the letter until May 1994. 
6. I have to say that when passing on the instructions from Mr James, Officer C was also very concerned that what I had been told to do was not correct, and as a result of him refusing to carry out tasks of a similar nature thereafter Officer C was squeezed out of his post on payment of compensation. 
7. In view of the above information, Mr James appears to have; 
a) Instructed a member of staff to carry out an act which he knew as unlawful in its intent.
b) Destroyed the original of a letter, or gave specific instructions for its destruction, knowing that it was vital evidence in a case against the Council and
c) Deliberately lied under oath at an Industrial Tribunal by saying that a letter had been sent to Officer A in September 1993 knowing that such a letter had not been typed until May 1994. 
8. In November 1994 a Personnel Assistant (Officer D) was appointed. From the very beginning she harassed me in various ways, and on many occasions this harassment was of a sexual nature. This harassment seriously affected my health, and by October 1996 I had had enough. I accordingly saw Mark James and reported to him some six or seven complaints of a serious nature against both Officer D and my departmental head, Officer E. Mr James did not want to know, and merely told me to repeat my allegations to Officer E (one of the perpetrators) for him to deal with. I could not believe that as the Director of the Council fully responsible for staff matters and the Monitoring Officer, and in view of the seriousness of the allegations, he did not commence an immediate investigation. 
9. Two days after my interview with Mark James I had to see my doctor because of the stressful affect the actions described were having on my health. My doctor issued a certificate, and I did not return to work after that date. 
10. There are both current and former members of staff who can verify that the facts I have stated above are correct. Officer C has confirmed to me that he is prepared to attend any inquiry to confirm the facts regarding the typing of the backdated letter. If I am given access to the discs in the Personnel Department I can easily identify the one containing the letter and my note thereon. This is providing the disc has not been destroyed. 
Sworn before a Commissioner for Oaths, and signed by both.
December 1997

Some time ago I corresponded concerning the matter to the Leader of that council and here is his final reply:
This confirms the allegations but inconveniently there is no record of  any conclusions. I have also  been able to contact Officer C, who strongly confirms the integrity of  Ms A. A subsequent freedom of information to the Council request also failed to produce any record of what had happened.

This is a mystery in that all that can be confirmed from the information I have is that these allegations were made and there is no evidence that it was .ever refuted. The complainant may have been genuine but unfortunately all records have been destroyed. When contacted Ms A confirmed her identity as per the affidavit but said she was unable to discuss the details of what had happened.

However, this does mirror several cases that have happened closer to home.  There have been several Carmarthenshire County Council staff whistle blowers, and some county residents who somehow have just got on the wrong side of Council Officers for various reasons who appear to have been appallingly treated just to try to silence them and/or to hide mistakes or misconduct.

In her recent blog, , Jacqui Thompson  recalls that Mr James included in a police complaint against her that she had accused him of tampering with documents before an industrial tribunal. It refered to this case. Actually, it was Ms A who made the accusation. and in her affidavit she admits not to tampering, but to forging , under duress, a completely new false document in order to make it look like officer B, who was  dismissed was lying. There were also the allegations of harassment of her, some of it of a sexual nature, and she claims Mr James asked her to refer the matter back to the one of the people she claimed was harassing her.

The outcome in Ms A's case has not been any legal action or, as far as we know, formal settlement. All we know is that Boston Borough Council dealt with the case through its HR department and subsequently destroyed the records

 However,.this sort of senior managerial behaviour certainly does exist and produces an atmosphere of fear.Although this encourages compliance , it also encourages overlooking bad conduct and poor practice as criticism is dangerous. Anything which suggests a problem is not welcome news. Huge efforts are made to hide failures.These organisations often seem to slowly rot outwards from the core, but their senior employees are rarely brought to book when catalogue of failures finally nudges them gracefully into standing down, usually with a good pension and subsequently a place on a prestigious committee or a job as a senior adviser. The people who get in the way rarely prosper after their encounters.

Surely, it is time for change, and a good look at how the public sector is run?

 Siân Caiach,

Sunday 14 January 2018

The Fifth Column - the elite public employees who quietly take "little extras".

Much press publicity is given to those who "cheat" on benefits or are caught avoiding car tax etc. These are the small fry. My professional experience has been primarily in the N.H.S. but subsequently as a county councillor. Many well paid public servants are happy with their lot and I'm sure don't cheat the state. However, others are not playing by the rules 
Siân Caiach,.

 I lost my medical career as an Orthopaedic surgeon by reporting fellow Carmarthenshire Consultants for using their NHS sessions and NHS equipment and facilities for private practice without paying   for  it. I am sure my colleagues at the time will say its my own fault, I got fair warning that unless I shut up about the scam I would lose my job and never work as an orthopaedic surgeon again. I didn't believe they had that power, but they did.

Perhaps areas distant culturally and geographically from centres of government attract people who feel they deserve more? We are told that the rich are becoming richer and it is very disturbing when the ordinary taxpayer is already funding a number of these well paid elite  public servants when,they cannot control their own greed., and need to sneak extra financial perks under the radar, usually with management collusion.

Mark Vincent James

Carmarthenshire County Council has become renowned for the actions of County Council Chief Executive Mr Mark Vincent James who famously was discovered to have been given secret extra salary payments by the elected councillors on the Council Executive Board. The Wales Audit Office found that he should not have been given this money,  £28,700 in the form of a secret pay rise
to compensate him for the loss of tax relief on his large pension when  HMRC changed the rules and he was also found to be unlawfully funded in a libel action to the tune of £29,000. In order to get the Council Executive Board to fund his libel action Mr James promised to return any damages to the Council. When he was awarded generous damages, £25,000 then he changed his mind and has kept the money.

 Perfectly legal to keep that £25,000 plus generous interest awarded to him , but he had promised it to the Council. This leaves the Council in theory £82,700 out of pocket. The investigation of the unlawful payments also cost the Council a hefty charge of £51,000.  Total bill to us local taxpayers around £138,700.

All this is theoretically the responsibility of the senior councillors, at that time a coalition of Labour and Independent councillors, for approving these payments but I believe they were persuaded to do this by the senior officers present. Do Councillors suddenly decide to give dodgy pay rises which are not declared in the Executive Board minutes?

This case is well described in the blog

Let me give you an example I observed in the NHS where actions were I believe immoral, certainly financially advantageous, but not actually unlawful.

I worked in Llanelli  with an orthopaedic surgeon called Joel Adams, an American who had moved to the UK. The NHS would address growing local waiting lists by allowing "waiting list initiatives," where doctors would be funded to run extra clinics or theatres sessions in their own time and would be handsomely rewarded using private practice pay rates.

Now, the problem for Joel was that in a relatively poor area of Wales, the demand for private operations is driven by the waiting lists. He had a good private practice, in part because I did not do any private practice myself and he took all the local requests. But he also had a way of claiming the extra public waiting list funds to fill his pocket without actually affecting the general waiting list at all,

I worked 5 full days a week and was on call every other night and every other weekend and had a brood of young children. I wasn't interested in extra money. The basic consultant salary was at that time £60k p.a.and I thought quite adequate for the job, Unlike my colleagues I did not negotiate extra salary grades which they felt entitled to for working in the backwater of West Wales. So I was putting in more hours, seeing more patients and doing more operations for less money than my colleagues. I didn't even claim travelling expenses to outlying hospitals, clinics, meetings etc for all the years I worked there.My secretary calculated I had missed out on more than £5,000. Totally committed to the NHS, I felt that I could afford the travelling and that the NHS needed the money more than I did.

Joel often took half days off and never worked Friday afternoons. If offered waiting list initiatives he arranged an extra theatre for a half day - Friday afternoon. A number of patients would be selected and operated on, usually quite simple cases who could normally be discharged within a day or 2. Joel left instructions that the patients should stay over the weekend as he wished to discharge the patients himself personally on Monday morning. He then found reasons why some should stay a little longer. For instance, ordered a new x-ray "just to check" or extra medication or a new type of dressing  or splint which would need time to be arranged. These patients would not then leave immediately and "blocked"  beds   His Monday full day theatre list was then shortened as there were not enough beds for all of them to be admitted before he went to theatre. These patients were sent home to wait longer. He and his anaesthetist could then take Monday afternoon off.

So Joel got paid handsomely at private practice rates, operating on  extra patients but managed the ward so that his next list was halved. The Government was informed that the Waiting list initiative had resulted in whatever number of "extra" cases being operated on, but not that  a similar number of other cases were cancelled from the next list. A  deceit that made one Consultant surgeon and the Consultant anaesthetist a fair amount of extra money for no actual extra effort. Joel even produced an audit  study which he presented to other doctors showing that on Mondays over 30% of his patients missed operations and had to be sent home . He blamed the management, but in fact he was manipulating the situation to fill his own pocket. This sort of scam is organisationally invisible unless you have very good managers who can closely monitor the overall figures and successfully challenge the senior people involved.  It did not happen then and I believe would not happen now.

Joel and other consultants were also doing things which were much clearer examples of thieving off the NHS .Operating on private patients in NHS time and unbeknown to theatre staff, getting drugs, xrays and tests for free for private patients and also using NHS implants at no cost to the surgeon.

That's what actually got me in trouble when my complaints were investigated by the Audit Commission, although, like in Carmarthenshire County Council Case, the Auditors found  the complaints were valid but were not minded to act against the perpetrators, in this case greedy doctors and compliant management and accepted the promise that they would do better in the future..

I was suspended for 3 years, treated like a criminal, Joel showered me with complaints and was supported by the Medical Director and all of the other surgeons on this scam. For them it was not a theft of public money and resources but a perk that they deserved  for working in this area, Many of their colleagues in other areas made huge fortunes from private practice so why not increase their profit margins here at public expense?. At the time the average private practice income of UK orthopaedic surgeons , over and above an NHS salary, was said to be over £300k p.a.

I imagine that the local surgeons were already adding generously to their NHS salary through external private practice, but it wasn't enough, they felt they needed to rip off the public purse. The medical director at Prince Philip Hospital, Dr Peter Thomas, explained to me that it should be regarded as a work benefit, a payment in kind ,and couldn't I understand that poor Joel was on his third divorce and was paying a lot of alimony? Dr Thomas also told me that he believed, from conversations with other surgeons that they might leave the trust if they did not get these perks.

Recently I was contacted  advise about safely "whistle blowing" on a similar sounding current scam.  Allegedly , consultant Surgeons and Anaesthetists in a local hospital were similarly operating on private patients in NHS theatres who are admitted to NHS wards and displace non paying patients.  My sources also believed that the clinicians were not paying the full cost of these procedures , thus subsidising their private practice. I would have loved to have said "Go on, tell the management, you will be fine" but I felt I had to advise the informants to not make the disclosure as it could well be the loss of their jobs, reputations and future work prospects.

If this is going on , and  I have no  proof  personally that it is happening, I suspect the management would be  aware, either colluding or turning a blind eye.. Financially injuring senior public servants in their wallets by exposing their "extra perks"is a very dangerous thing to do.

The people who are ripping off the public in these ways generally believe they are entitled to these extra perks.  They feel they are Princes and Princesses and need to be pampered.  Lesser employees could be dismissed if they were found to steal a minor item or even found smoking in a toilet.  The rich people on the top of the  grades throughout the public services are at or near the pinnacle of their careers, generally well  respected and very influential. Many of them are surely happy with their generous salaries but clearly some want more, and are prepared to stretch or break the rules, and worryingly, appear to feel no shame.

If we had a culture where whistle blowing in the public sector was seen as a constructive act, these practises would not happen. Policies on whistle blowing are useless when they are routinely countered by harassment, allegations of misconduct and other discrimination against informants.

Where exposing financial wrongdoing in public service is regarded as snitching on the high and mighty who's position gives them  entitlement  to these "extras", the facts will be obscured and usually covered up. The public money will still  be wasted on the greedy.  Other staff with knowledge of the scams will feel implicated and collude to hide or deny the truth, especially when they see how whistle blowers are treated.

In times of economic austerity we should surely not tolerate the misuse of any public funds? it is disturbing, especially when the motivation appears to be the greed of people already well paid. In the NHS it is time that private practice is only offered in private facilities and in the doctor's own time and without equipment taken or "borrowed" from the NHS.