Cardiff Council: theft, drugs & fraud

Over 50 staff at Cardiff Council have been investigated by internal auditors for allegations of drug use, fraud and theft.

Cardiff’s internal audit team followed up 53 allegations against staff over the last year, many of which resulted in staff being dismissed, retrained or cautioned. According to a report, accusations were largely lodged by senior managers, with only a small minority proving unfounded.

Cases were outlined in an Audit Committee report and included an employee taking drugs while on duty, five members of staff falsifying overtime claims, waste being removed illegally in exchange for food, and the theft of diesel.

There were also accounts of benefit fraud, an employee using sick leave to work elsewhere and staff using council accommodation to run a business. These allegations were all outlined in a report of 2011/2012.

One employee resigned after forging time sheets and was subsequently prosecuted for two counts of fraud and one count of theft. The employee was issued a 12-month community order and 150 hours of unpaid work.

A council spokesman said: “The allegations were taken very seriously by the council, as is evidenced by the council calling the police in to assist.

“Unfortunately, the allegations failed to provide any hard evidence which the council could use in any dismissal/prosecution. Following the investigation, controls around tendering/contracting have been tightened within service areas accordingly.”

Audit Committee member David Walker said he was “concerned greatly” regarding the sheer number of allegations.

“It’s happening more than it should. The lack of control and the effectiveness of management, money and systems is not as good as it should be,” the Councillor said.

The council confirmed it has “robust processes” in effect to detect fraud and prevent financial misuse.

The recent “influx of fraud allegations” that the report outlines is not the first time scandal has graced Cardiff Council.

In 2010, long-serving officer in charge of street lights, Bryan Geeves, was fired following an in-depth investigation into fraud by the council and the police. The 61 -year old was arrested and bailed on charges of fraud and money laundering during the investigation.

In a climate of cuts, such reports and allegations raise concerns over whether Cardiff councillors are really value for money.

On Thursday, Cerys Furlong, the outgoing chair of Cardiff Council, was called upon by opposition groups to repay part of her £10,000-a-year extra salary after spending just four months in the role.

The position was designed to fill the space of Lord Mayor, but it was revealed she attended less than one-sixth of the civic events attended by the previous Mayor in the same period.

Three out of four opposition groups claim she had not fulfilled the role.

Daniel Hill