TORFAEN IT FRAUD TRIAL: Court hears officer ‘required balancing act’
10:18am Thursday 8th May 2014 in Pontypool news
THE chief executive of Torfaen council gave evidence as part of the fraud trial concerning one of the authority’s senior employees.
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.
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 pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Speaking at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday, chief executive Alison Ward said she made clear the supplement was not to be paid for with public funds.
After she delegated the task to Dastgir, he later responded in an email that funds were in place to take the supplement forward.
She said: “It was my understanding Farooq had found private sector funding.”
Ms Ward explained that it was brought to her attention there were issues about £10,000 being spent on cabling works, and there was a £10,000 payment to the South Wales Argus.
At court, Ms Ward was questioned about a Heads of the Valleys grant from the Welsh Government – which is used for projects within the Heads of the Valleys communities – which was spent on laptops and mobile phones that were not eligible for the grant. She said in the end, Torfaen council had to pay £385,000 to cover this from reserves, adding: “Farooq was a very senior officer in the council and would be aware of the terms of grants.”
Ms Ward explained that Dastgir was suspended in 2011 on full pay of around £75,000 a year after 28 years with the council.
She said she was “constantly performing a balancing act” between his ambition and drive, and what needed to be put in place for things to happen, adding: “He was good at being a visionary... but not in implementing.”
She became concerned when she chaired a meeting in August 2011, describing him as “distracted” and “under stress” and questions were later raised about whether he was the right person for the managing director post.
Torfaen council employee Ruth Cadogan, who works in the Shared Resource Service, where IT resources from Monmouthshire and Torfaen councils as well as from Gwent Police are pooled, then gave evidence.
She noticed an order for 42 laptops for Monmouthshire elected members, which she was told Dastgir had asked to be purchased, and she raised questions about who was going to pay for them.
The jury heard from Marie Bartlett, finance manager for Monmouthshire council, who had concerns as there was no budget identified for buying the laptops.