Use/Mis-use of Internal Audit Department

The request was partially successful.

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Cllrs Eling (Leader) and Cllr Marshall (Cabinet Member) informed me that, nothwithstanding the huge costs relating to the "Wragge Report", they were intent on finding information to discredit Cllrs Hussain, Ian Jones and others and that they were making extensive use of the staff within the internal audit department to that end. Indeed Cllr Marshall wrote on 14th September, 2016 that he and Cllr Eling "made a conscious decision to hit them with something new each week which we've achieved."

1 Please disclose all documents* relating to these enquiries and subsequent ones to the date hereof. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing please specifically disclose all records of communications passing between Cllr Eling and/or Cllr Marshall and SMBC staff (specifically including Chief Executive Jan Britton) relating to these investigations.

2 Again without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing Cllr Marshall wrote on 20th January, 2017 "we have picked up more dodgy house deals for [Cllr] Rouf family today." Please ensure that all documents relating to these investigations are fully disclosed.

3 Once again without prejudice to the generality of (1) above, Cllr Marshall wrote on 6th December, 2016 "[Cllr] Mahboob Hussain house/land deal was rigged. Council received four bids, his was indeed the highest but the three where it has become apparent off his family members." Please ensure that all unredacted documents relating to this investigation are included in your disclosure.

As ever, and to save costs, I am happy to attend Oldbury Council House in person to view the relevant documents.

*Document Definition:

“Document” means any note, attendance note, record or report of whatsoever nature prepared in respect of the subject of the request.

Where a document is no longer in existence please state, if possible, the gist of the document and how it came to be destroyed.

Where one would normally expect a document to be in existence (eg an attendance note of a telephone conversation) but there is no document please state why one was not prepared.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-59053660
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-59053660
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
Dear Mr Saunders, Please find attached the Council's response to your FoI
request.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
 
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

I am considering a request for an internal review with regard to your Chief Executive's response and will contact you further with regard to this in due course.

In the meantime, am I to assume from the initial response that Cllr Marshall was lying to me about the alleged investigations?

Also, please confirm where in the public domain the documents are concerning the allegedly dodgy house deals of Cllr Rouf/his family?

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Use/Mis-use of Internal Audit Department'.

I have not had a response to my letter following the response to the original request received from your Chief Executive. In the circumstances I formally request an internal review.

Dealing with the second and third parts of the original request first, Mr Britton says that the specific allegations are in the public domain via "the audit investigation" but I cannot trace this. Please either answer the request properly or direct me to where this information is purported to be.

Mr Britton claims that Cllrs Eling and Marshall did not communicate with the internal auditors and others within the Council to find dirt on their political opponents. I now refer to certain statements made in writing by Cllrs Eling and Marshall as follows:

01/09/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall said they were investigating all contracts and procurement involving the Council and Murray Hall Trust. Is it SMBC’s legal response that no officers were involved in this investigation? If yes, how did Messrs Eling and Marshall acquire access to the documents?

01/09/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall said that they had had two contracts between SMBC and Wednesbury Celebrates/Sport Wednesbury “fully audited”. Who undertook the audit and what was the outcome?

02/09/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall claim to have found an anomaly in the Murray Hall accounts? See request for 01/09/16 above.

16/09/16 The two Councillors said they would check a matter out that I raised and added “we are wearing auditors out daily.”

22/09/16 Cllr Marshall told me in writing: “I spent an hour with the temp Monitoring Officer yesterday going through the Jones web of corruption, the blood drained from his face with every new revelation. He says he has 2 rottweilers in his fraud team and is going to release them. Hopefully they will find evidence of what I’ve passed to him.”

04/10/16 The two councillors sought to attack a local charity, Murray Hall Community Trust and Marshall stated “I’m having all [there] contracts audited.”

02/11/16 Eling and Marshall stated that they had used SMBC staff to contact Birmingham Taxi Licensing to dig up specific information concerning Cllr Zahoor Ahmed.

06/12/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall said that they had obtained specific highly confidential information from within the DWP. I suspect that they may have used SMBC staff for this enterprise.

12/01/17 Cllr Marshall states in writing that he has just told the audit team to investigate contracts relating to the refurb of Wednesbury Town Hall.

04/02/17 Cllrs Eling and Marshall state that they are investigating the grant of a council house to Cllr Frear and say: “the file is being looked at by our auditors at the moment. I will mention this [a specific matter] to them on Monday.” This suggests that Eling and Marshall are dealing direct with the auditors rather than go through the Chief Executive.

This clearly suggests the response from your Chief Executive is "wrong". Please review the files and respond appropriately and in compliance with the legal requirements/

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/u...

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-63808694
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Yet again you have failed to comply with the statutory time limits of the FOIA. I have referred this matter to the ICO.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-63808694
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Please pass this on to the
person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews. I am writing to
request an internal review of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council's
handling of my FOI request 'Use/Mis-use of Internal Audit Department'. I
have not had a response to my letter following the response to the
original request received from your Chief Executive. In the circumstances
I formally request an internal review. Dealing with the second and third
parts of the original request first, Mr Britton says that the specific
allegations are in the public domain via "the audit investigation" but I
cannot trace this. Please either answer the request properly or direct me
to where this information is purported to be. Council Response Before I
deal with the points you have raised, the Council again refutes the
allegation that investigations were commenced with the intent of
discrediting elected members at the request of elected members. Council
Response (parts 2 and 3) This is the link to the report to the Audit
Committee which references both Councillors Hussain and Rouf:
https://cmis.sandwell.gov.uk/Cmis5/Docum...
The internal audit report relating to Councillor Rouf was later made
publicly available as part of the standards investigation into Councillor
Ian Jones at the Ethical Standards Sub-Committee in December 2017, and
that report can be found in this evidence pack
https://cmis.sandwell.gov.uk/Cmis5/Docum...
____ Mr Britton claims that Cllrs Eling and Marshall did not communicate
with the internal auditors and others within the Council to find dirt on
their political opponents. I now refer to certain statements made in
writing by Cllrs Eling and Marshall as follows: 01/09/16 Cllrs Eling and
Marshall said they were investigating all contracts and procurement
involving the Council and Murray Hall Trust. Is it SMBC's legal response
that no officers were involved in this investigation? If yes, how did
Messrs Eling and Marshall acquire access to the documents? 01/09/16 Cllrs
Eling and Marshall said that they had had two contracts between SMBC and
Wednesbury Celebrates/Sport Wednesbury “fully audited”. Who undertook the
audit and what was the outcome? 02/09/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall claim to
have found an anomaly in the Murray Hall accounts? See request for
01/09/16 above. 16/09/16 The two Councillors said they would check a
matter out that I raised and added “we are wearing auditors out daily.”
22/09/16 Cllr Marshall told me in writing: “I spent an hour with the temp
Monitoring Officer yesterday going through the Jones web of corruption,
the blood drained from his face with every new revelation. He says he has
2 rottweilers in his fraud team and is going to release them. Hopefully
they will find evidence of what I've passed to him.” 04/10/16 The two
councillors sought to attack a local charity, Murray Hall Community Trust
and Marshall stated “I'm having all [there] contracts audited.” 02/11/16
Eling and Marshall stated that they had used SMBC staff to contact
Birmingham Taxi Licensing to dig up specific information concerning Cllr
Zahoor Ahmed. 06/12/16 Cllrs Eling and Marshall said that they had
obtained specific highly confidential information from within the DWP. I
suspect that they may have used SMBC staff for this enterprise. 12/01/17
Cllr Marshall states in writing that he has just told the audit team to
investigate contracts relating to the refurb of Wednesbury Town Hall.
04/02/17 Cllrs Eling and Marshall state that they are investigating the
grant of a council house to Cllr Frear and say: “the file is being looked
at by our auditors at the moment. I will mention this [a specific matter]
to them on Monday.” This suggests that Eling and Marshall are dealing
direct with the auditors rather than go through the Chief Executive. This
clearly suggests the response from your Chief Executive is "wrong". Please
review the files and respond appropriately and in compliance with the
legal requirements. Council Response (part 1) In regard to communications
between Cllrs Marshall/Eling and Council Officers in relation to your FoI
request I can confirm that there are no communications between Cllr Eling
and Council Officers. In regard to communications between Cllr Marshall
and Officers, we have, upon review, identified one meeting where
information was supplied to a Council Officer. This information was
provided to the Council in Confidence and there was no expectation of
disclosure (S41 of the FOIA). Further the information disclosed formed the
basis of work undertaken by the Council to investigate the issues raised.
We believe that S30(1) of the FOIA applies and that the information
provided was used to carry an investigation(s) undertaken by the Council
and as such is covered by S30(1). In applying Section 30(1) a Public
Interest Test is required. I believe that while Councils, as all public
bodies, are required to be open and transparent, there remain times when
information collected during internal investigations are not placed in the
public domain. By disclosing information relevant to internal
investigations the Council believes that this would prejudice future
investigations as people will be less willing to provide information if
they knew it would be disclosed into a public forum.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
 
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC
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personalised homepage. For information please go
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References

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Julian Saunders

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Your response is wholly inadequate. There are direct reference in the WhatsApp feed to Eling and Marshall dealing directly with Council employees. They can have no expectation of confidentiality in that regard.

I am now referring this to the ICO.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

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