Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

                                

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

This is a report of an Employment Tribunal hearing I attended, the matter had already been part heard and this was day 6 of 10. As far as I know there are no reporting restrictions. Brief details are below followed by the first part of a report based on my notes.

Venue: Tribunal Room 2, Third Floor, Liverpool Civil and Family Court Hearing Centre, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

Case reference: 2400718/16

Appellant: Mrs A. Mountney

Respondent: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Employment Judge: Judge Robinson

Tribunal Members:
Mr AG Barker
Mrs JE Williams

Clerk: Lynne Quilty

Date: 6.2.2017

Time: 10.00 am


The following is a contemporaneous account of day 6 and continues from Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 1).

Mr Mountney referred Mr Tour to page 642 and asked him what was his response to number 6?

EJ Robinson asked to let him known of the provenance of the letter to Alison Mountney dated 12th January and asked for a paragraph?

Mr Mountney referred to answer eight with the response at the bottom. In elections, he referred to the appointment of staff above counter staff. He referred to ability and a named member of staff.

Surjit Tour stated he was incorrect, that staff were required after polls closed at the counting centres on the counting tables. This was a change to counting staff. Moving to the requirement for management approval, he pointed out the named member of staff was a poll clerk.

EJ Robinson asked who was responsible for the appointment of polling clerks? Surjit Tour replied that the appointment of polling clerks was the responsibility of Alison Mountney.

EJ Robinson said that at 10 o’clock the polls close and a poll clerk would be sat at the tables in the polling station?

Surjit Tour answered that a poll clerk would be supervised by a presiding officer, but there would be one or two poll clerks at each polling station.

Mr Mountney said he accepted it for what it is and asked a further question of Mr Tour. Mr Tour answered that if there was an issue with a member of staff employed it was not within the discretion of Alison Mountney and that the responsibility for suitability rested with Kate Robinson.

Mr Mountney asked Mr Tour a question about Kate Robinson to which Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall Kate Robinson coming to him regarding that individual.

Mr Mountney referred Mr Tour to paragraph 29 of his witness statement and said as it was important he would go back to the first line. A whistleblowing concern had been made in 2015, Mrs Robinson says she told Mr Tour but Mr Tour says he can’t remember. He asked a question of Mr Tour around being made aware by Mrs Robinson.

Mr Tour said he didn’t recall being made aware of the issue at the time, but it had been made clearer in 2015.

Mr Mountney referred to the whistleblowing report and the reports starting at page 649.

Mr Tour asked for a page number? Mr Mountney referred to page 761. Mr Moore suggested it was 771. Mr Mountney confirmed it was 771.

Mr Mountney referred to the bottom of page 770, at the bottom of the page, 3rd line, P1, he asked if Mr Tour agreed to which Mr Tour answered yes.

EJ Robinson interrupted and said it was his fault but asked for a more explicit reference.

Mr Mountney stated page 770, 6.4.9, third line, P1. He stated that it was here that he never dismissed the integrity of the election was an issue. P2 never refers to him and asked how come is says that?

Mr Tour said he did not recall. Mr Mountney coming to Kate Robinson, he asked a further question to which Mr Tour replied Kate Robinson. Mr Mountney asked wouldn’t Mr Tour know?

Mr Tour answered referring to an incident, canvassing and how steps were taken.

Mr Mountney referred to 6.4.5 and at P2, some time after, people agreed Kate Robinson had made a verbal report to P1 about an alleged canvassing fraud, was Mr Tour told?

Mr Tour referred in his answer to internal audit and how the canvassing book had gone to the individual known as P1.

Mr Mountney asked if a report was made? Mr Tour said that he didn’t recall the conversation with Kate Robinson, but that individual therefore says Kate Robinson. Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall, going on to refer to Bradfield and a canvassing issue.

Mr Mountney asked a question about fraud to which Surjit Tour answered yes. Mr Mountney asked if it was involving public money and he was a solicitor? Mr Tour answered yes. Mr Mountney referred to Mr Tour’s witness statement and matters concerning a polling clerk, he noted these were not issues that concerned fraud and asked a question.

Mr Tour answered that he had seen the context dealing with the issues and that the issues had been addressed. He referred to Mrs Bradfield, he was not belittling the issues, but there were other matters on his mind and his attention and focus had been on those things, he expected it would be dealt with by a manager.

Mr Mountney said he agreed it was, he couldn’t remember where but did it not state Kate Robinson was lying. Therefore it was raised, but Mr Tour had said it was not issue of concern to him. It was not a matter he would expect to be unresolved and pointed out that Mr Tour was the Borough Solicitor.

Mr Tour explained that at the time there was a governance report by Anna Klonowski in early September, the organisation was in turmoil and there were governance issues. In the grand scheme matters prevailing were important, but his attention and focus was on other issues.

Mr Mountney referring to those other issues, said that these election issues might affect the integrity of the elections.

Mr Tour said he was not aware the integrity of the elections was called into question. The issue of Bradfield was how the canvass was conducted as an example.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of "irregularity" in the last year

Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of “irregularity” in the last year

Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of “irregularity” in the last year

                                        

One of the advantages to the new transparency regime imposed on Wirral Council by national government regulations is that they’re being forced to publish more information about their activities by the deadline of 31st December 2014.

For example the information below is on their fraud investigating efforts. As I’m obliged to do so under the terms of the licence I will state “This contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.”

Here are the statistics published about Wirral Council for fraud in 2013/14 on the data.gov.uk website. My comments are added in italics.

Number of occasions powers under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information)(England) Regulations 2014, or similar powers used 2.

The regulations explicitly referred to came into effect until 6th April 2014, therefore couldn’t have actually been used at all by Wirral Council in the 13/14 financial year. Looking at the new regulations it’s about requesting information from such as banks on people suspected of housing fraud.

Total number (absolute and full-time equivalent) of employees undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud 7

Total number (absolute and full-time equivalent) of professionally accredited counter fraud specialists 7

Not quite sure whether these are a total of 14 employees or the same 7 in both categories.

Amount spent by the authority on the investigation and prosecution of fraud £159,000

Probably a combination of employee time, legal costs and external costs

Number of fraud cases investigated 507

So split between 7 FT employees, that’s an average of 72 each a year or 26 hours per a case.

Total number of occasions on which fraud was identified 71

Well I’d expect this number to be less than 507.

Total number of occasions on which irregularity was identified 436

In other words in every fraud case investigated where fraud wasn’t found, it was put down as irregularity.

Total monetary value of the fraud that was detected £1,256,823

Well I expected it would be something, but £1.2 million in a year (compared to the size of Wirral Council’s budget and financial transactions isn’t too bad I suppose. So each fraud was on average for an amount of £17,701, but cost on average £2,239 per identified fraud case to investigate.

Total monetary value of the irregularity that was detected £409,311

I still don’t fully understand what irregularity means but there you go! Maybe someone can leave a comment and explain that!

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

 

Last month, the Department for Communities and Local Government invited local councils to make bids to it (closing deadline is 5th September 2014) for £16 million of money to help with counter fraud. This is not for the purpose of tackling benefit fraud (which is a different issue) but would be for projects to reduce the risk of for example the £45,779.46 Wirral Council lost in a care home fraud last year.

Certainly Wirral Council’s counter-fraud team (considering the size of the organisation and complexity of its finances) isn’t very big. The last time somebody asked how big it was I think the answer was two. Since then I think at least one person has left who I assume was in counter fraud (although whether the post has been filled or left vacant as a way to save money I’m not sure). So as fraud is losing Wirral Council money and if they made a successful bid the money would not have to come out their existing budgets I hope Wirral Council does bid (although who knows)?

I know counter-fraud is at times a rather dull back office function and I doubt on the doorstep people are saying to political parties “You must do something about improving your counter fraud activities!”. However it is important, because although the risk of fraud may be small, the amounts can be large (some authorities have lost far larger amounts in frauds). Admittedly with the fraud referred to above Wirral Council admitted that the fraud was sophisticated and convincing but that staff hadn’t followed their internal rules to prevent this sort of thing happening. I think the staff involved were “subjected to disciplinary measures”.

However to make it as easy as I can for Wirral Council, here is a link to the application form and is a link to the nine pages as to what it is about and when they will get the money if their bid is approved. So, if you have any juicy tips about Wirral Council losing money to fraudsters (recently) or have some suggestions as to what they could do better to reduce the risk of fraud please leave a comment (even if it has to be anonymous)!

In the interests of open reporting here is a link to the DCLG press release about this.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Metropolitan Police refuse to answer questions over Wirral care home fraud investigation

Metropolitan Police refuse to answer questions over Wirral care home fraud investigation

Metropolitan Police refuse to answer questions over Wirral care home fraud investigation

                     

Exactly a month ago I made my first Freedom of Information Act request to the Metropolitan Police about the care home fraud of £45,683.86 involving Wirral Council.

Below are the five (perfectly reasonable) questions I asked.

Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

A report to Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee states that a fraud of £45,683.86 and £95.60 against Wirral Council was referred to the Metropolitan Police and that it is being “actively pursued”.

In relation to this investigation could you please answer the following questions.

1) Have the Metropolitan Police concluded their inquiries into the issues raised by Action Fraud/Wirral Council into the alleged fraud?

2) Has anyone been charged with a criminal offence in relation to matter? If so, how many people have been charged?

3) Who is conducting (or if it has concluded conducted) the investigation and what are their contact details? What rank is the investigating officer assigned to the case?

4) If the investigation is currently ongoing when is it likely to reach a conclusion?

5) As the fraud involved a victim in Merseyside, why is the Metropolitan Police and not the local police force (Merseyside Police) investigating the matter?

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

In response (after a reply on the 25th November basically saying they have received my request) yesterday I got this reply (which includes my questions). Certainly it’s one of those cases that’s probably worthy of requesting an internal review of. As to their suggestion that I’d get a different response to my questions if I got in touch with their press office instead, if it’s anything like Merseyside Police’s press office I’m pretty sure I’d just get a “no comment” response from them if I tried anyway! Metropolitan Police’s response to my Freedom of Information Act request is below. I’ve added some line spacing between paragraphs to make it more readable but otherwise it’s verbatim except for correcting a small typographical error where there was a missing space between two words.

Dear Mr Brace

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2013110002125

I respond in connection with your request for information which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 20/11/2013. I note you seek access to the following information:

* A report to Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee states that a fraud of £45,683.86 and £95.60 against Wirral Council was referred to the Metropolitan Police and that it is being “actively pursued”.

In relation to this investigation could you please answer the following questions.

1) Have the Metropolitan Police concluded their inquiries into the issues raised by Action Fraud/Wirral Council into the alleged fraud?

2) Has anyone been charged with a criminal offence in relation to matter? If so, how many people have been charged?

3) Who is conducting (or if it has concluded conducted) the investigation and what are their contact details? What rank is the investigating officer assigned to the case?

4) If the investigation is currently ongoing when is it likely to reach a conclusion?

5) As the fraud involved a victim in Merseyside, why is the Metropolitan Police and not the local police force (Merseyside Police) investigating the matter?

EXTENT OF SEARCHES TO LOCATE INFORMATION
To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted within Specialist Crime and Operations.

RESULT OF SEARCHES
The searches located information relevant to your request.

DECISION
Before I explain the reasons for the decisions I have made in relation to your request, I thought that it would be helpful if I outline the parameters set out by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) within which a request for information can be answered.

The Act creates a statutory right of access to information held by public authorities. A public authority in receipt of a request must if permitted, confirm if the requested information is held by that public authority and if so, then communicate that information to the applicant.

The right of access to information is not without exception and is subject to a number of exemptions which are designed to enable public authorities to withhold information that is not suitable for release. Importantly, the Act is designed to place information into the public domain, that is, once
access to information is granted to one person under the Act, it is then considered public information and must be communicated to any individual should a request be received.

Having considered the relevant information, I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release the information requested.

This email serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Act.

REASONS FOR DECISION
The information requested relates to an ongoing investigation and is exempt by the virtue of Section 30(1)(a) of the Act.

Please see the legal annex for the sections of the Act that are referred to in this email.

Section 30 Investigations
Under Sections 30(1)(a) of the Act, Public Authorities are able to withhold information relating to investigations where its release would or would be likely to, have an adverse effect upon other investigations or the prosecution of offenders.

This exemption can be applied following completion of a Public Interest Test (PIT).

The purpose of the PIT is to establish whether the ‘Public Interest’ lies in disclosing or withholding the requested information.

To release this information would disclose MPS practices used in this and similar investigations thereby exposing operational procedures and investigative protocols.

Information relating to an investigation will rarely be disclosed under the Act and only where there is a strong public interest consideration favouring disclosure.

Section 30 being a qualified exemption there is a statutory requirement to carry out a PIT when considering any disclosure and this is detailed below.

Public Interest Test – Investigations.
The public interest is not what interests the public but what will be of greater good if released to the community as a whole. It is not in the public interest to disclose information that may compromise the MPS’s ability to complete any future criminal investigations.

Evidence of Harm – Investigations
In considering whether or not this information should be disclosed we have considered the potential harm that could be caused by disclosure.

Under the Act we cannot and do not request the motives of any applicant for information. We have no doubt the vast majority of applications under the Act are legitimate and do not have any ulterior motives, however in disclosing information to one applicant we are expressing a willingness to
provide it to anyone in the world.

This means that a disclosure to a genuinely interested applicant automatically opens it up for a similar disclosure to anyone, including those who might represent a threat to individuals or any possible criminal and/or civil process.

The MPS does not generally disclose information from investigations except through our Directorate of Media & Communication to the media. This is so potential witnesses are not discouraged to come forward and provide statements in relation to investigations.

The manner in which investigations are conducted is usually kept in strict secrecy so that the tactics and lines of enquiry that are followed do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them useless.

Section 30 Investigations Public Interest considerations favouring disclosure.
The investigation into allegations of fraud at Wirral Council is a high profile matter.
There has already been a significant amount of information placed into the public domain through media articles.
The public therefore have a genuine interest in being informed as to the nature and circumstances of these incidents and who may have been involved.

Sect 30 Investigations Public interest considerations favouring non-disclosure
During the course of any ongoing investigation enquires are made to secure evidence. These enquires are made for the duration of the case and are based upon proven methods as well as the judgement and experience of the officer(s) in charge of the investigation.

The MPS is reliant upon these techniques to conduct its investigations and the public release of the modus operandi employed during the course of this enquiry could prejudice the ability of the MPS to conduct further, similar investigations.

It cannot be clear at present what effect disclosures through FOI of investigation material may have upon this case but care must be taken to not compromise any strand of the investigation.

Balance test
Disclosure under the Act is a disclosure to the world not just to the individual making the request.

On balance the disclosure of information relating to an ongoing police investigation cannot be justified.

The public’s interest would not be served in releasing information if its release could compromise this or any current/future policing investigation.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS
If you are dissatisfied with this response please read the attached paper entitled Complaint Rights which explains how to make a complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please E-Mail me or contact me on 0207 230 6267 or at the address at the top of this letter, quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Yvette Taylor
Information Manager

In complying with their statutory duty under sections 1 and 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release the enclosed information, the Metropolitan Police Service will not breach the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, the rights of the copyright owner of the enclosed information will continue to be protected by law. Applications for the copyright owner’s written permission to reproduce any part of the attached information should be addressed to MPS Directorate of Legal
Services, 1st Floor (Victoria Block), New Scotland Yard, Victoria, London, SW1H 0BG.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome to discuss the response with the case officer who dealt with your request.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your complaint within 20 working days.

The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 01625 545 700

LEGAL ANNEX
Section 17(1) of the Act provides:

(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision in part II relating to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which-

(a) states the fact,
(b) specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

30(1) Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.

(1) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of-

(a) any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained-

(i) whether a person should be charged with an offence, or
(ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it

In complying with their statutory duty under sections 1 and 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release the enclosed information, the Metropolitan Police Service will not breach the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, the rights of the copyright owner of the enclosed information will continue to be protected by law. Applications for the copyright owner’s written permission to reproduce any part of the attached information should be addressed to MPS Directorate of Legal
Services, 1st Floor (Victoria Block), New Scotland Yard, Victoria, London, SW1H 0BG.

Total Policing is the Met’s commitment to be on the streets and in your communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims. We are here for London, working with you to make our capital safer.

Consider our environment – please do not print this email unless absolutely necessary.

NOTICE – This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. To avoid incurring legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are monitored to the extent permitted by law. Consequently, any email and/or attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements reached with other employees or agents. The security of this email and any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

Find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/metpoliceuk
Twitter: @metpoliceuk

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud

Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud

Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud

                    

This story is an update to an earlier blog post headlined Wirral Council reveals how fraudsters conned them out of £45k. Video of this part of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee starts at the beginning of agenda item 6 and continues at the next clip for a further fifteen minutes. The report into this item is available to read here.

Mark Niblock (Wirral Council’s Chief Internal Auditor) said to those at the Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting, “Since the report was written we have had further contact and we’ve undertaken further investigations with the banks concerned and their fraud teams and we’ve managed to identify a number of account holders residents in the South of England. Active names and addresses of active accounts that’s been passed on to the Metropolitan Police and they are fairly confident that an arrest will be made fairly shortly. That may or may not lead to some of the monies may … be recovered. They did say progress had been made.”

Joe Blott, Strategic Director of Transformation and Resources in answer to questions from councillors, “it’s important to note that whether it’s error or negligence or anything else, that I have authorised that an appropriate internal disciplinary investigation does take place” and later added, “just to clarify just in terms of that internal disciplinary investigation, it does cover more than one person”.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks: