After Monday bought revelations that Jared O’Mara filed £30,000 in fraudulent coke-fuelled expenses, the disgraced ex-Labour MP yesterday faced his second day in court. Those who have followed Jared’s parliamentary career won’t be surprised to hear that he didn’t actually turn up – he appeared via video link.
The court heard Georgia Wilson as its first witness, the director of MP services for IPSA. Wilson first became aware of O’Mara in July 2019, when a £3,000 expenses claim had to be filed with the police – after this she made sure O’Mara’s claims received more intense scrutiny. Wilson took up some of his discrepancies, and failure to file expenses on time, with the ex-MP, who cited staffing issues. He also blamed a “torn bicep”.
Wilson then discussed the invoices from Confident About Autism SY – an organisation that doesn’t actually exist. She described “amateurish” counterfeits, with differing fonts, formats and issues with serial numbers. After O’Mara had announced his resignation, he then asked Wilson to reimburse him for his filed expenses – he claimed his police investigation was over. It wasn’t.
Wilson went on to paint the picture of an office in disarray. She describes “growing dysfunction” as O’Mara was haemorrhaging staff, and that any interactions with IPSA were on an ad hoc basis. As O’Mara reported himself sick to the Commons, she says the MP was “garbled” and “self-contradictory”, adding it was clear there were issues around his mental state. The trial continues.
Sheffield Hallam’s favourite scandal-ridden ex-MP is back with a bang, as Jared O’Mara’s trial entered its first day. The disgraced MP is facing seven counts of expenses fraud, which totalled £28,000, and is appearing alongside his mate and former staffer Gareth Arnold. They have previously pleaded not guilty to all charges. Popcorn at the ready…
Over the course of the day, the court was enlightened with the details of O’Mara’s expenses exuberance. Some of which were expenses claims of over £20,000 made to the IPSA for “Confident About Autism FY”– an autism support charity. The issue is that the organisation doesn’t exist.
The prosecution argued that Jared “will likely seek to blame IPSA, Parliament and his autism” for his discrepancies – we’ve heard that one before. They add that these defences are obviously false. To add insult to taxpayers’ injury, the court also heard of the reasoning behind Jared’s over mighty expense claims. “Extensive cocaine habits” are hard to sustain.
Scottish Labour and the SNP have long cosied up to each other when it suits them – including recently on controversial reforms to gender recognition – and Guido can now reveal yet another troubling instance of collusion from these ideological bedfellows. Taking a look at MSPs expenses register, Mairi Gougeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, has been paying out rent to a name which may well be familiar to followers of Scottish politics. It’s a “Miss K A Dugdale”.
Guido spoke to a member of Mairi’s team who confirmed, to the best of his knowledge, this was in fact Kezia. Mairi paid out over £11,000 to the former Labour leader. She also contributed over £2,000 in council tax and utilities for the same property. All on the taxpayers’ expense. This came predominantly during the pandemic – when many other Scottish ministers were working from home.
To make matters worse, co-conspirators may well be aware that Dugdale is married to Jenny Gilruth, herself a minister in Sturgeon’s government. So Mairi was effectively paying out to a Scottish government colleague, all from the public purse. The Scottish Parliament allowances scheme says MSPs are able to:
“[lease] residential property in Edinburgh, other than from a close family member, another member or connected person.”
In a statement to Guido, Mairi claimed her rent payments were “in accordance with the Scottish Parliament rules of expenses”. Although Kezia herself wasn’t an MSP whilst she was Mairi’s landlord, she was in a relationship with another MSP serving alongside Gougeon in government. Guido will leave it to co-conspirators, and the Ethical Standards Commissioner, to decide if that counts as a “connected person”…
Buried amid the Autumn Statement, today reams of MP expenses data were published, which Guido spent the afternoon flicking through. Here are some of the biggest eyebrow-raisers…
Perhaps doing penance for appalling behaviour in his private life, Imran Ahmed Khan actually repaid £1,438 for a Macbook he’d purchased. Recession? What recession…
While rail strikes threaten to grind the commuter economy to a halt, our elected representatives are getting off particularly lightly. IPSA has published updated guidance for rail strikes, outlining the expanded allowances for travel expenses including taxis and hotels
The IPSA guidance states:
“Where commuting to an office location is unavoidable, and you incur significant costs as a result (e.g. for a long taxi journey), you may consider applying for contingency funding”
The regulator adds they may cover costs for hotel stays for both MPs and staffers. Have they tried working from home?
The IPSA has announced that the next batch of MP’s expenses will come on November 17, following the previously reported suspension. The initial justification, for delays to reports due in September, was the death of Queen Elizabeth. The period of mourning lasted 10 days, what’s their excuse for the next 6 weeks?
In the bulletin the IPSA also announced further reductions in the detail provided on expense claims, specifically to reporting taxi journeys and surgery venue costs. None of this will surprise co-conspirators. The IPSA has taken any excuse to delay and water-down the transprency of published expenses. In addition to MPs taking liberties with taxpayer funding, we now have to watch the body created to watch them…