THE chief executive of Monmouthshire County Council contracted a Torfaen council officer accused of fraud for his IT expertise, a court heard yesterday.
Farooq Dastgir, 53, of Coed Camlas, New Inn, allegedly tried to use £10,000 of Torfaen council money to pay for a South Wales Argus supplement highlighting digital developments in the borough. He is also alleged to have pushed through a payment of £18,200 to make up a deficit on a budget for laptops and mobile phones for Monmouthshire county councillors, using money ring-fenced for regeneration projects in Torfaen.
Dastgir, and Gary Inchliffe, 52, of Beechcroft, Trelewis, are both charged with false accounting, while Dastgir is also charged with misconduct in a public office. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Paul Matthews, chief executive officer of Monmouthshire County Council, told Cardiff Crown Court that he had known Dastgir for more than 15 years when he worked for Torfaen County Council in a variety of roles, up to deputy chief executive below Alison Ward until 2009.
He said: “Monmouthshire had a technology deficit when I came into the role in 2009. I asked Farooq to help me understand what I would need to do to reach the service which could enable my organisation to move forward.
“Monmouthshire was not part of the SRS at that time. I asked whether to join the SRS was a sensible thing for Monmouthshire to do. “
Monmouthshire County Council became part of the Shared Resources Service in September 2010. The SRS at Victoria House, Blaenavon, was designed to be the IT nerve centre for Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils and Gwent Police.
Mr Mathews described Dastgir "as a good man" and "honourable" who he brought in to assist with the council’s technology due to his networking ability. He said that the council’s cabinet had approved in February 2011 the money for the ICT equipment which included laptops and mobile phones.
He said: “He wasn’t a budget holder. Farooq was employed by Torfaen council, he was never employed by Monmouthshire County Council.
“We entered into an agreement with Torfaen to the effect that they lent him for a couple days a week. I contracted him to do a job for my organisation. This doesn’t give him budget holding rights.”
Huw Evans, defending Dastqir asked Mr Matthews what were his client’s weaknesses.
Mr Matthews said: “He was in a hurry to act and sometimes wouldn’t take the necessary time to check that everybody knew what he was doing and why he was doing it.”