Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
Similar Articles :
By Peter Hofschröer
Hardly had the dust settled from the storm caused by nepotism affair involving Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and other senior officers in this crisis-ridden and dysfunctional police force, when the next story of corruption at a senior level in North Yorkshire Police (NYP) hit the headlines.
‘The Press’ recently covered the story and it can be read on:
Former Deputy Chief Constable Adam Briggs did not come out of the nepotism affair exactly smelling of roses – he took ‘early retirement’. Then there were questions asked about ‘inappropriate material’ found on his computer and rumours there was more behind his ‘early retirement’ than met the eye. This story however trumps them all. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) recently reported on the investigation into allegations that Briggs embezzled £43,397.06 from NYP by claiming allowances that were not spent on the purpose they were authorised for and by improperly having an invoice for £11,750 paid for by the North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) that he should have settled himself. The report is available on:
Jeremy Holderness, chief executive of the NYPA, which was also heavily criticised by the IPCC, stated, ‘Such allowances are not unfamiliar in policing, or indeed many other avenues of business, and they are seen to be quite reasonable in the circumstances of employment of senior professionals.’
Nothing could be further from the truth. A well-known chartered accountant commented, ‘Contrary to what Mr Holderness states, in thirty-two years of auditing public and private sector organizations as a Chartered Accountant I have never seen arrangements as open to abuse as these in any company. Training and private health cover are normally funded and authorised centrally.’
Holderness went on to say that such allowances were generally beneficial, and called the IPCC response ‘disproportionate’, but conceded, ‘We agree that, in this instance, sadly the arrangements might not have operated as we would have wished and we have learned lessons for the future.’
‘Lessons for the future’? Now where have I heard that one before?
The laxity with which NYPA administers public funds – i.e. your and my money – beggars belief. The IPCC report mentions,
‘Mr Holderness sent Mr Briggs a letter dated 27 July 2007 outlining the conditions of his service. The letter stated “the post holder will be entitled to an annual non-pensionable allowance of £10,000 paid monthly as part of salary, to cover the cost of private medical insurance and personal development costs. Whilst intended to cover these issues, expenditure on these items is entirely at the discretion of the post holder”.’ (Para 22).
Excuse me, but have I understood that correctly? ‘Expenditure …. is entirely at the discretion of the post holder.’ So the NYPA has given Briggs forty grand of our money and let him do exactly what he wanted with it?
Yes, I’ve got that right: Holderness continues, ‘the term discretion meant that Mr Briggs could spend the allowance on what he liked.’ Just in case that is not entirely clear, Holderness kindly confirms that, ‘The allowance was not auditable and was to be used at Mr Briggs’ discretion’ (Para 23). Couldn’t be clearer, eh? Holderness is trusting Briggs to spend our money responsibly.
Let us not forget the Briggs took ‘early retirement’ for his role in the nepotism scandal, and seems to have been doing things other than police work with his taxpayer-funded PC, which appears neither to have been discrete nor responsible.
Anyway, it seems that Briggs spent this money on some sort of specialised training, presumably in how to properly account for the expenditure of public funds and how to use a PC for work purposes.
Such large sums are normally subjected to a procurement process known as the ‘three quote exercise’ (Para 39), but somehow Briggs did not do that and was allowed to get away with it. Apparently, our old friend the straight cop CC Maxwell, ‘gave Mr Briggs strong words of advice in relation to not following the correct tendering process, which Mr Briggs accepted’ (Para 41).
Well, failing to properly account for £40K of taxpayers’ money and failing to follow correct procedures is surely a disciplinary matter, it not cause for instant dismissal, so why did that not happen? The Report continues, ‘CC Maxwell states that he did not make a record of the fact that Mr Briggs had been advised about his conduct, nor did he record the date that advice was given’ (Para 42). I see. A highly experienced police officer, a man with ‘policing in his blood’, did not make a notebook record, or indeed any record of what is actually a crime, as we shall see below, and did not make an arrest.
What Maxwell then decided was, ‘the matter should be dealt with retrospectively, in order to create a clear audit trail and transparency in relation to what the money had been spent on and why procurement had not been’. (Para 44) In common parlance, this is often called ‘fiddling the books’. Gratifying, isn’t it that such people are there to uphold the law on our behalves, eh?
The taxpayer might be concerned about substantial sums of public money being spent with no controls. However, we are told that, ‘CC Maxwell, who was in receipt of a similar allowance, has no concerns that the force met the cost of Mr Briggs coaching from Enabling Development’ (Para 88).
Note that Maxwell, who lurches from one corruption scandal to another, is ‘in receipt of a similar allowance’, which is presumably accounted for in a similar fashion.
It gets worse. Two of the invoices were approved by the Chief Constable’s PA, who should not have had authority to approve them; the NYPA agreed to exempt the allowances from audit; appropriate procuring practices were routinely ignored and there was false accounting.
This amounts to a catastrophic failure of financial control of the use of taxpayers’ money.
Well, maybe some people, particularly those in senior management positions, might have a problem with tedious paperwork, and this was just oversight and error, which could be sorted out in a friendly conversation. That was, however, not to be.
‘Despite having been provided with disclosure of the evidence obtained and at his request being provided with the questions that the IPCC felt he should be given the opportunity to respond to, Mr Briggs has chosen to remain silent. It appears he is not prepared to disclose how he spent the £31,647.06 allowance he received from NYP, nor explain in detail why he circumvented the correct processes and did not use the allowance to pay for the coaching he arranged with Enabling Development’ (Para 90).
I repeat, ‘Mr Briggs has chosen to remain silent.’ Yep, that old cop out: the right to silence.
Much more could be said about this report, but less us now go back to an earlier point (Para 33). Here, Joanna Carter described herself as the Chief Financial Officer of the NYP, but did not say that she was also the Treasurer of the NYPA until November 2011. This means that there was a conflict of interest within the NYPA and it would have been impossible for the NYPA to criticize the situation in the force, without criticising its own Treasurer. This seems to have been withheld from the IPCC by the NYPA. Nothing like cooperating with enquiries, is there?
In this case, we are not talking about mere misconduct. Legal opinion is that there have been two offences of Fraud by Misrepresentation (Fraud Act 2006, S.2), the misrepresentation being that (a) the money was accepted on the basis that it would be spent on training and health cover, when in fact it was not and that (b) the invoice should have been settled by the individual concerned as a personal liability, because it was used to make applications for jobs as chief constable in other forces, not for training and development or health care. This is false accounting and it would not be difficult to obtaining a conviction of Briggs for fraud or at the very least to recover all of the money. Furthermore, Briggs has no paid tax on the allowances he misappropriated, which is also an offence.
So what has the IPCC done about these serious criminal offences and tax fraud? The case was dealt with by our old friend Nicholas Long, an IPCC commissioner. The IPCC, of course, sets the highest standards of integrity for its staff. Indeed, its website states,
“If the IPCC is to hold the police to account then it must maintain the highest standards itself.
ñ We need to act, and be seen to act, with integrity in both our private and professional lives.
ñ We act with integrity in our public statements, acceptance of hospitality and gifts, dealings with stakeholders and use of public funds.
ñ We will be honest about our mistakes.”
Well, there is probably not a better qualified person in the IPCC than Commissioner Long to deal with dodgy expense accounting, as this article in the Daily Mail shows,
To save you the trouble of reading it all, here is a summary and a couple of quotes:
When Mr Long left his wife for a younger colleague, a certain Amerdeep Somal, questions were asked about his expense accounting, including,
‘Expense claims submitted by Mr Long show that he has spent hundreds of pounds of taxpayers’ money on first-class train tickets to visit Loughborough, where Ms Somal, 43, who is also a commissioner, has a £300,000 home.’
‘The IPCC has strenuously denied that expenses claimed by the couple were for anything other than business purposes.’
Yep, I believe that one, don’t you? So did her former husband, Kishan Jassi, who confronted her over the situation before their marriage broke down.
But anyway, I digress. Let us return to the main plot here, the case of DCC Adam Briggs, now retired. Briggs has failed to account, to follow procedures or to follow any of the seven Nolan Principles when he had a duty to do so, brought disrepute on the force and personally benefited from his misconduct in public office to the tune of £43,397.06 and evaded tax.
So what has Nicolas Long done about this?
Briggs has yet to face criminal charges, has not been asked to pay back the money, nor been the subject of civil proceedings to recover it. Worse, according to the IPCC report, the NYP Chief Financial Officer and NYPA Treasurer Joanna Carter raised concerns about the payments in March 2009, but although there were concerns that Briggs had committed a criminal offence or at least yet another case of gross misconduct, the NYPA tried to prevent any IPCC investigation by refusing to refer it to the IPCC.
In the event this matter only came to light because following a Freedom of Information Request, an outside organisation (the ‘Police Review’) published that Briggs had the highest training expenses of any chief officer in the country.
Consequently Briggs was only investigated in February 2012 and then only at the insistence of the IPCC. This was after his ‘early retirement’, thereby ensuring that he did not have to cooperate with the enquiry and could not face any disciplinary action for these offences.
One wonders why it took so long for this matter to be investigated and why Briggs was allowed to continue to work in a position of trust when he was clearly untrustworthy. Well, at least Briggs gets to keep his pension rights.
But anyway, as Commissioner Long put it, ‘It is utterly unacceptable that more than £30,000 of public funds can be handed to an officer without any means to audit how that money is used. Although the police authority stipulated what the money was to be used for, they did not check. Although Mr Briggs has retired, one would think he would want to take an opportunity to explain what he did with the money and why he claimed a further £11,750 from the public purse. I find his decision not to assist our investigation or answer our questions disappointing. It leaves us with an expenses claim that does not appear to withstand scrutiny and the actions of a senior police officer that do not appear justifiable’.
That all sounds reasonable enough. Would Mr Long be kind enough to tell us what he intends doing here? How does he intend to see to it that the taxpayers get back their money? Will criminal charges be pressed against Briggs? Will there be a civil action?
CC Maxwell, ex-DCC Briggs, Commissioner Long and Mr Holderness did not respond to a request for their comments.