Tory Fraud: Semi-Independent Scrutineer Appointed

Guido had not forgotten the chaos he caused down Wandsworth way this summer by revealing more than £50,000 in suspected fraudulent payments to the local Conservative agent. Two years after concerns were first raised internally, an independent investigation has been called and the suspect – Councillor Robert Morritt – has been suspended. The details of the inquiry have been released today:

The Conservative Party in Wandsworth and Wimbledon is establishing an inquiry into allegations appearing in the media concerning accounting irregularities during the period (2006-10) when Robert Morritt was in its employment.   The local Conservative Party is organised in four Conservative Associations in Battersea, Putney, Tooting and Wimbledon.  These Associations pool resources in the Wandsworth & Wimbledon Conservative Group.  Rob Morritt was employed by its predecessor organisation, known as the Wandsworth Conservative Group.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, the leader of Hillingdon Council, has been asked to: Conduct an independent review of the professional activities, including recent media allegations, of Robert Morritt during his employment with the Wandsworth Conservative Group. The review should be thorough, evidence based and should make observations, draw conclusions and recommendations as appropriate. Cllr Puddifoot will report his findings to the Group Management Committee of the Wandsworth & Wimbledon Conservative Group, who will then make a detailed public statement covering the allegations that have been made.  Cllr Puddifoot will conclude his investigations as soon as practically possible but the importance of a thorough investigation precludes a set time limit.

 Cllr Puddifoot has been Leader of Hillingdon Council for 12 years and is a past Treasurer of the Uxbridge Conservative Association. He is by profession a Chartered Accountant and served for many years, on a voluntary basis, as a General Commissioner of Revenue and Customs.  He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.  Cllr Puddifoot has no previous connection with the Wandsworth or Wimbledon Conservative Associations.

A professional outside auditor would have made more sense, especially given that elements Conservative Party have already systematically covered this story up already. Two investigations already compiled have found over £50,000 of unaccounted funds, yet they were ignored by Wandsworth Conservatives – instead they promoted Morritt. Guido has offered to make all the evidence he has in his possession, and it’s a lot, available to Mr Puddifoot.

He looks forward to hearing from him…

Read the full story here.

Wandsworth Labour Threaten to Call Police Over Tory Fraud

The Wandsworth Guardian have picked up the growing scandal at Wandsworth Tories. Leader of Wandsworth Labour Party, Councillor Rex Osborn is getting involved as well, threatening police action:

“The allegations of misuse of Conservative funds are very serious and may be a matter for the police. We welcome the move by Councillor Govindia to suspend Councillor Morritt while the matter is being investigated. There are questions to be answered when these allegations were first known to Wandsworth Council. If there is any evidence that they have covered up the wrong doing as long back as 2010 they must say so before this issue damages the reputation of Wandsworth Council.”

You have to wonder who else above Wandsworth Council knew too…

Read the full background to the scandal here.

Furious Wandsworth Fraud Councillor Loses Party Posts

Guido hears that next week’s Wandsworth Guardian are going heavy on the Wandsworth Conservatives fraud cover up that Guido has been exposing over the last month.  Guido has the full evidence of Councillor Robert Morritt having his hand in the till while he was the Transport Secretary’s agent at the last election. As a result of pressure applied from various angles, today we learn he is to stand aside as Deputy Chairman of Justine Greening’s constituency party.

Morritt has broken cover, and despite already being suspended by a Wandworth Council, he is trying to claim he is standing aside voluntarily because he is so squeaky clean. His long and rambling statement is about two weeks too late:

“It is a sad fact in politics that malicious individuals can fire off accusations about people who are elected to serve their communities, and in certain quarters have their vicious claims taken at face value. In the past few weeks I have been on the receiving end of a number of scandalous accusations of fraud and wrongdoing during my time working for Wandsworth Conservatives, all of which are completely untrue. In addition, I have been subject to vile attacks by individuals unknown in an attempt to damage me politically, professionally and personally. Therefore I would welcome an independent review of the work I delivered for my previous employer, and for this to be conducted by a suitable person as soon as is possible. I will be writing to Wandsworth’s Chief Executive later today so that he is aware I will be voluntarily not attending any committees until the report is concluded. I will be adopting the same approach in respect of any posts I also hold in the voluntary party. There is no doubt in my mind that I carried out my duties in a highly professional manner and the results achieved in various elections are a testament to that. The chairman of Wandsworth Conservatives has been very clear that in his view there was no wrongdoing and I was warmly regarded by my colleagues and by the volunteers. As for those persons behind these unprincipled and false accusations, I can only express my disgust and disappointment.”

An interesting use of the term “voluntarily” there. The whole statement has a touch of the Huhne to it…

See also:

The Questions Wandsworth Won’t Answer

In last night’s statement Wandsworth Council declared that they would be suspending Tory fraud suspect Councillor Robert Morritt at their next council meeting. What they did not mention is the fact that the next full council meeting is at the end of October. Council sources also indicate that Robert Morritt has not had the Conservative whip withdrawn. Wandsworth Tories are back to ignoring Guido’s follow up questions. Despite being suspected of defrauding Wordsworth Conservatives, it has fallen to the council to take to action. The local party seems in complete paralysis – Morritt has refused to resign and is digging his heels in.

The statement itself is once again riddled with inaccuracy. For example, the claim that “all the allegations concern his alleged activity before he became a councillor.” This is just not true. Agent Morritt became a Councillor Morritt on election day in May 2010. When he was sacked from Wandsworth Tories, he was a councillor. A clear allegation made by Guido here certainly relates to when Morritt was a councillor. Subsequent investigations that resulted in Morritt paying back £5,000 all took place in late 2010 when Morritt was sitting on the Wandsworth Council. Silence though…

For the sake of transparency, here are the questions that  Wandsworth Council and Wandsworth Tories are avoiding:

  • The next council meeting is not until 17 October, so Morritt’s suspension will not be effected for nearly nine weeks. Will he continue to attend committee meetings until that time?
  • Will his expenses and attendance fees connected with committee membership be withdrawn immediately, when he is formally suspended, or not at all?
  • Does he remain a member of the Conservative Group on Wandsworth Council? If so, does he continue to attend political meetings with fellow Conservative councillors? Does he continue to receive Conservative Group papers and communications?
  • If he is still a member of the Conservative Group on Wandsworth Council, what steps have been taken to suspend him from it? When will his suspension be effected?
  • Is he still deputy chairman of Putney Conservative Association? Have there been any discussions with CCHQ about this? What is Justine Greening’s view?
  • If he is still deputy chairman of Putney Conservative Association, what steps have been taken to remove him from this post? When will this be effected?
  • What investigation is it that Council Leader Ravi Govindia now anticipates will be undertaken into this affair? Who will lead it? What will its terms of reference be?

As Guido said at the beginning of this expose, this goes all the way up.

Wandsworth Conservatives seem to be making it particularly hard for themselves by thinking if they say nothing it will all go away.

It won’t…

Wandsworth Council Suspend Tory Fraud Suspect

Wandsworth Council have finally opened their eyes to the ongoing fraud scandal at Wandsworth Conservatives. This statement was put out last night:

COUNCILLOR ROBERT MORRITT

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, is to ask the next ordinary meeting of the Council to stand Councillor Robert Morritt down from all Council committees, following the publication of a series of allegations concerning his period as Conservative Party agent, prior to his election as a councillor.

Councillor Govindia says: “I have been disturbed to read a series of allegations in recent days concerning Councillor Robert Morritt.  All the allegations concern his alleged activity before he became a councillor, and none concern council taxpayers’ money, but I believe it is essential to get to the bottom of what has happened.  I do not wish to distract from the vital work of the council committees that he sits on and will therefore ask the next ordinary Council meeting to suspend his membership of them.”

Councillor Morritt is a member of Wandsworth Council’s Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee, General Purposes Committee, Adult Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Joint Staff Committee, Chief Officers Joint Consultative Committee and Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.

Guido will look into some of the detail included here later, but there are conflicting reports over whether the Tories have suspended the whip as well. Guido understands that senior figures in the local party have begged Morritt to resign, but he is digging in and refusing to go. He’s currently still the Deputy Chairman of Justine Greening’s constituency of Putney…

Mark Elliott, Chairman of Putney Conservatives and Ravi Govindia, the Leader of Wandsworth Council are on holiday this week, which has slowed things down. Either way it’s clear to see that the original statements put out by Wandsworth Tories accusing Guido of lying and making this scandal up were woefully inaccurate…

You can read the full background to the suspension here.

Yet More Unexplained Cheques in Wandsworth Fraud Scandal

The longer Wandsworth Council keep their heads in the sand about their audit committee councillor and a missing  £20,000 from Tory coffers, the murkier the cover up looks. So far Robert Morritt has claimed that the blank cheques he was writing to himself were for his “expenses”. That excuse cannot work all the time though…

As Guido understands it, Wandsworth Conservative Group has a detailed system in place for the purchase of stamps. This system, which involves cheques being signed by two signatories and presented with a special guarantee card, has been used for years. In the first five months of 2008 WCG forked out some £20,000 for stamps in the normal manner. Why then did Morritt himself claim a further £5,000 during this period to purchase stamps on WCG’s behalf?

On 26 February 2008 a cheque was written to Morritt for £2,000, apparently to buy stamps, while on 2 April he was paid another £3,000 for the same reason. £2,000 worth of stamps were bought using the regular method on 20 February – six days before Morritt’s first purchase – while another £1,000 worth were bought on 31 March, two days before his second cheque was issued. Why were so many stamps needed in such a short space of time? Why did Morritt deviate from the standard procedure and buy the stamps himself, with no counter-signature? When are Wandsworth Council going to stamp down…

See also:

Wandsworth Gags Councillors Over Tory Fraud

The Deputy Leader of Wandsworth Council has ordered silence over Guido’s on-going exposé of the fraud and cover-up at the heart of Wandsworth Conservatives. The following diktat was sent to all councillors:

From: Jonathan Cook
Sent: 02 August 2012 15:01
To:
Subject: Guido Fawkes

Dear All

You may well have seen reports posted on Guido Fawkes’ blog in recent days.

Anthony Cole, as Chairman of the Wandsworth group of associations, has responded with a statement, copied below, which makes the position clear.

If you are contacted by any journalists I suggest you decline to comment, and refer them to Alex or me.

Many thanks

Jonathan

More internal communucations coming up. Guido’s favourite one is is where Rob Morritt, after being caught with his hands in the till, gets threatening…

The £20,000 Question for Wandsworth Conservatives

Yesterday Guido shone some light on over £8,000 worth of cheques written to Justine Greening’s agent in the run up to the 2010 General Election. Today he brought you a rather muddled statement from Wandsworth Conservatives that can be summarised as “move along people, nothing to see here”. They are currently standing by Robert Morritt – who is now a councillor and on the Audit Committee, ironically, of Wandsworth Council. As if the previous allegations were not enough to spark a new inquiry, how about this…

Guido can now reveal that a further £20,000 paid to Justine Greening’s former agent between 2007 and 2010 has gone unaccounted for. Wandsworth Conservative Group employees are required to record a reason for the issue of cheques in an invoice ledger, but Morritt failed to do so on no less than 23 separate occasions. Here is how the internal investigation – that Wandsworth Conservatives chairman Anthony Cole claims had settled the matter – covers the issue:


Why has Morritt failed to give an adequate explanation for £20,000 worth of cheques paid to him?

Where is the money?

See also:

Wandsworth Tories Demand Guido “Desist”
No Evidence Presented to Suggest Allegations Inaccurate 

Wandsworth Conservative Group have broken cover in response to Guido’s recent exposé. Their Chairman Anthony Cole has released this statement:

“In the course of his employment with Wandsworth Conservative’s [sic.], Mr Morritt was required to incur expenses.  In early

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Morritt Pocketed Election Deposit Dosh
Missing Cash Scandal Spreads Beyond Wandsworth

Not content with cashing £1500 meant for comms equipment and nearly three grand supposedly for a colleague’s leaving present, it seems even a general election provided an opportunity for Tory councillor Robert Morritt to play his missing money game to […]

+ READ MORE +

More Questions Over Morritt’s Missing Money –
Councillor Kept Comms Cash For Himself

Earlier Guido revealed how Justine Greening’s former agent and current Tory Councillor Robert Morritt has become mired in a missing money mystery, but the questions don’t stop there. While selecting council candidates in 2009, Wandsworth Conservatives recognised the need […]

+ READ MORE +

Robert Morritt’s Missing Money –
Wandsworth Tory Auditor in Voodoo Accounting Mystery

Last week Guido broke the news of a brewing crisis involving Justine Greening’s former agent and current Wandsworth councillor Robert Morritt. When reading the following revelations, remember that Morritt sits on Wandsworth “the careful spending” council’s audit committee. Upon discovery […]

+ READ MORE +



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