Antiguan PM: Baroness Scotland Has Brought Shame on Commonwealth

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The Prime Minister of Antigua has launched a devastating attack on Baroness Scotland for bringing “shame” on the Commonwealth. A report in the Antigua Observer says PM Gaston Browne has slammed Scotland’s extravagant spending as an “embarrassment for the Caribbean”. They quote Browne as saying: “Instead of bringing benefits to the Caribbean, she brought shame”, adding “the election of a real Caribbeaner of great competence and experience was missed because of insularity, a culture of non-cooperation and hate of our own”. That’s two Commonwealth nations who have publicly criticised their Secretary General. How long before Theresa May has to comment? 

Baroness Scotland Does Not Deny Claiming Phantom School Fees

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Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded school fees allowance for her adult children. The astonishing claim was made by a senior Commonwealth official in an internal complaint about Baroness Scotland’s “revised salary package”. According to Ram Venuprasad’s complaint, published below, Baroness Scotland demanded she was paid an “educational allowance” for her children. Guido has tracked down Baroness Scotland’s children – they are both grown up. There is no conceivable justification for either of them needing an “educational allowance” – unlike her predecessors who had school age children. 

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Over the course of the last week, Guido has repeatedly asked Baroness Scotland’s press office if they deny she is being paid an educational allowance. They refuse to deny it and do not contest the claim. This is the most shocking revelation so far – Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded educational allowance despite her adult children having finished their education. Was she claiming to send them to Hogwarts?

Guy News Special: Baroness Scotland’s Spending Spin

Baroness Scotland’s case for the defence during her Today programme interview this morning was essentially: Extravagance? What extravagance? Does that defence stand up to scrutiny? Guy News takes a look…

Baroness Scotland Speaks: Extravagance? What Extravagance?

Baroness Scotland has surfaced on the Today programme where she insisted “there has been no extravagance at all” in her spending since she became Commonwealth Secretary General.

Scotland said it is “untrue” she demanded £4,000 for a mirror-lined cupboard. Here is the cost plan showing her demand for a £4,000 mirror-lined cupboard.

She said there is “no chandelier”. Read the emails where her staff complain about her demands over an “extremely expensive chandelier” here.

She said the total cost would be the original budget “plus the fees plus things that would come up”. Read her staff complaining about how expensive those “things that would come up” are here.

Scotland said she followed all procurement rules to hire her friend Lord Patel on £30,000-a-month. Here is a memo showing procurement practices were waived. 

She said her team she denied this all to journalists “again and again and again” before publication. Guido was in regular conversation with her press office until we asked about her Mayfair home. As soon as we started asking about this, they stopped replying. Given multiple opportunities, they did not deny any of these stories…

Baroness Scotland then invited Today listeners to come into her Mayfair home and see for ourselves. We accept, when can we arrange a viewing?

Tory MP ‘Stuck His Hands Down Man’s Pants and Tried to Kiss Him’

howlett

Tory MP Ben Howlett is the subject of police enquiries after allegedly sexually assaulting a gay couple in a nightclub in his Bath constituency. The Sun reports allegations that:

“He pushed a man up against the wall and stuck his hands down his trousers into his pants and tried to kiss him. He then grabbed his boyfriend’s crotch.”

Westminster acquaintances of Howlett, a legendary soak, will undoubtedly be shocked to learn of such alleged antics…

£1,200 to Move Baroness Scotland’s Chandelier

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Baroness Scotland’s taxpayer-funded refurbishment of her Mayfair home included a £1,200 demand to relocate her chandelier. Scotland asked for the opulent decorative lighting be moved from her sitting room to her dining room, at a provisional four figure cost to the taxpayer. Here is the listing in the cost plan obtained by Guido:

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Leaked emails show senior officials criticised this as “extremely expensive”, and noted that it “was not part of the tender or funds put aside”. The civil servant below warned “we do not have the funds”.

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Taxpayers were asked to pay £1,200 to move Baroness Scotland’s chandelier from one room to another. Now a light has been shone on her expenses scandal level extravagance… 

Baroness Scotland Asked Taxpayer For £33,000 For Posh Paint

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Baroness Scotland demanded the taxpayer pay an astonishing £33,000 for the most expensive paint on the market for her Mayfair home, despite objections from her senior staff. The cost plan for the grace-and-favour residence obtained by Guido shows that the “additional paint specification” ordered by Baroness Scotland was budgeted at £33,000:

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A senior official complained that the Baroness wanted paint from Farrow & Ball, a high-end manufacturer which the official described as “top of the range of commercially available paint”. The official then complains: “The contract allowed for Dulux”.

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Here another senior official emails colleagues explaining that “additional funds” were found to pay for the “more expensive paint”. Additional funds billed to you…

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The original agreement was that the Commonwealth residence in Mayfair would be painted with Dulux paint, Baroness Scotland then insisted they use Farrow & Ball at an additional cost of £33,000 to the taxpayer – ignoring the complaints of her senior officials. Only the best for the Baroness, paid for by the Commonwealth taxpayer…

India Protests Scotland’s Extravagant Spending

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Pressure is mounting on Baroness Scotland tonight after India expressed its anger at the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s extravagant spending. The Indian press says their government is “concerned“, reporting that “alarm bells went off” when they learned Baroness Scotland handed huge contracts to her friends and spent vast sums doing up her Mayfair residence, all paid for by the Commonwealth taxpayer. A letter sent by Baroness Scotland to the Indian high commissioner attempting to justify the lavish spending splurge has gone down particularly badly. The Indian press quote their corruption-conscious government as complaining:

“We are the fourth largest financial contributor to the Commonwealth. We have concerns in how the budget is being spent.”

The main Commonwealth contributors – Britain, Canada, Australia and India – are the ones paying through the nose for Baroness Scotland’s vanities. They are the ones who can stop her too…

£4,020 For Baroness Scotland’s New Cupboard

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Baroness Scotland demanded the taxpayer stump up £4,020 for her new cupboard, Guido can reveal. The cost plan for renovations to her grace-and-favour Mayfair home, which cost taxpayers up to £450,000 overall, includes a £4,020 cupboard with “mirror clad interior”, as well as a Trompe style door for another £4,000. Only the best for the Baroness.

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Baroness Scotland could have easily bought a perfectly suitable cupboard and door for a few hundred quid. Instead she insisted the Commonwealth taxpayer pay over £8,000 for the highest of high-end furnishings. Not to mention a £5,000 vanity unit in her powder room. Her press office have declined to justify the spending. Stay tuned, this is the tip of the iceberg of Baroness Scotland’s Mayfair expenses splurge… 

Baroness Scotland Billed Taxpayer £5,000 For New Bathroom Vanity Unit

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Guido has obtained the cost plan for the renovation of Baroness Scotland’s grace-and-favour Mayfair home, revealing that she billed the taxpayer £5,000 for a new vanity unit in her bathroom. Her extravagant spending is reminiscent of the duck islands and moats of the expenses scandal. The cost plan shows how the taxpayer was provisionally billed £5,000 for Baroness Scotland’s vanity unit, £2,000 to tile her bathroom, £1,750 for new wallpaper in that room alone and £2,500 to fill in a window. Another £4,000 was spent on maintaining the decorative drapery over a window on the landing. This was all additional spending beyond the original budget, ordered by Baroness Scotland.

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When senior officials queried whether all this spending was really necessary, Baroness Scotland’s fixer Gary Dunn told them: “The SG [Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland] wants her bathroom completely done”. What the Baroness wants, the Baroness gets.

bathroom

Over the last 24 hours Guido has repeatedly asked Baroness Scotland’s press office to justify this spending. They have declined to do so. She demanded her bathroom was “completely done” and ordered a new £5,000 vanity unit – all paid for by the Commonwealth taxpayer. Back in 2009 MPs were forced to resign for similar scandalous expenses troughing…

Tory Whips Saved Vaz

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When 203 MPs voted for Keith Vaz to join the Justice select committee last night, everyone assumed Labour MPs had turned up to back their man. In actual fact, Guido can reveal that it was the Tories who whipped their side to secure Vaz’s position. A disbelieving Conservative MP tells Guido that as he walked through the voting Lobby he saw a group of Tory whips ordering their MPs to vote for Vaz. There was no Labour whipping operation, only a small number of Labour MPs turned up for the vote. As a result 159 of the 203 MPs who voted for Vaz were Tories, including ministers like Amber Rudd, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox. The whips’ pathetic argument was “you’re voting for the process, not for him”This decision to appoint a crook to the Justice committee is one of parliament’s most shameful acts in recent years – and the Tories are the ones responsible…

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Baroness Scotland’s Fixer Threatened to Have Whistleblowers Prosecuted

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Baroness Scotland’s chief fixer has threatened to have staff members blowing the whistle on her extravagant spending prosecuted. Guido has obtained an email sent by Scotland’s deputy and close ally Gary Dunn to all staff in the Commonwealth Secretariat. Dunn warns that following “recent leaks of confidential information to the media… the Secretariat may initiate disciplinary proceedings for ‘gross misconduct’ due to breaches of confidentiality and this may result in dismissal and/or referral for prosecution“. Read the chilling threat in full below…

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Click to enlarge

“It is with regret that I have to inform you that the Secretariat has had to instigate an internal review owing to recent leaks of confidential information to the media.

Staff are reminded of the duty to exercise the utmost discretion in regard to all matters of official business, and the duty not to communicate to any person any information known to them by reason of their official position which has not been made public except in the course of their duties (Staff Regulation 6). All Staff are bound by a duty of confidentiality including a duty not to use information located in the course of their employment for their personal gain or advantage and/or for the advantage of a third party (Staff Rule 7.3.6)…

The Secretariat may initiate disciplinary proceedings for ‘gross misconduct’ due to breaches of confidentiality and this may result in dismissal and/or referral for prosecution.

Staff are also reminded that while the Secretariat recognises and respects the rights of staff to privacy within the workplace, it is able to check and monitor official electronic communications and equipment where there are grounds to suspect serious misuse, or where routine monitoring has alerted the Head of IT of possible serious misuse.

If you have any concerns or questions please discuss them with your line manager.

Regards

Gary Dunn”

After whistleblowers informed the press of Baroness Scotland’s antics, the response of the Baroness and her chief fixer was to threaten their staff with prosecution for leaking. Naturally the threat was then leaked to Guido. This is hardly the behaviour of someone with nothing to hide…

Scotland Wanted £450,000 to Do Up Mayfair Home

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Baroness Scotland provoked outcry among senior Commonwealth officials after she billed £450,000 of taxpayers’ money to do up her grace-and-favour home in Mayfair – double the original budget. Below Guido publishes leaked memos in which officials complain about the huge amount of money being spent. The first memo shows celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam was brought in to do up the property. A high-ranking official warns that Baroness Scotland’s additional renovations “will increase the total cost for the refurbishment from the original £230k to near £450k”.

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A second memo sees a senior official complain that Baroness Scotland’s demands have caused “a significant increase in cost” to “around double the price of the original specification”.

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And a third memo sees another official warn that “there are no spare funds in the budget”, so Baroness Scotland’s renovations mean “going further into reserves or cutting programme expenditure”.

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Just weeks into her job as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland doubled the budget for the refurbishment of her Mayfair residence. This is a huge amount of money and a significant portion of the whole Commonwealth budget, funded by Commonwealth taxpayers. Guido has asked the Baroness’ spin doctor how they justify doubling the budget. We have not received a reply…

Senior Official Accused Baroness Scotland of Misuse of Public Funds

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A senior official in the Commonwealth Secretariat formally complained that Baroness Scotland’s decision to hire a close friend on £30,000-a-month was a misuse of public funds. Below Guido publishes “frank and candid advice” written by a high-ranking official in the department, which raised concerns “pertaining to procurement, transparency and the use of public funds”. You will never see mandarins using language more explicit…

complaint

The official outlines how they “advised Baroness Scotland against making this appointment” of her friend Lord Patel. According to the official, Scotland extraordinarily replied that Patel “was very supportive during her campaign to become Secretary-General”. This is astonishing: a senior official is essentially alleging Baroness Scotland hired a friend on £30,000-a-month as a reward for him helping her election campaign…

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Sources with an intimate knowledge of the review Lord Patel carried out say it was not worth the paper it was written on. According to the official, this bombshell complaint was overruled by Scotland, who dismissed the advice and forced through the appointment of her close friend…

How Baroness Scotland Waived Recruitment Process to Give £90,000 Contract to Crony

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Guido can reveal for the first time how Baroness Scotland waived procurement practices in order to award a £90,000 contract to a close friend. Just days after taking office, Scotland instructed staff to hire her fellow Labour peer Lord Patel as a consultant to produce a review of the department. Scotland and Patel have been friends for years and she has previously described him as her “partner in crime”. In the leaked memo below, an official carefully makes clear the arrangement is “following your instructions” and requires them to “seek a waiver from the Secretariat’s preferred procurement practices”. The job was not advertised to other bidders, the recruitment process was waived so it could be given to her “partner in crime”.

waiver

The contract is with Patel’s company KYA Global. Its only directors are Patel and his wife – the company appears to have no website or online or physical presence. The sums of money are huge – the company was paid £30,000-a-month out of the public purse. The contract was signed by Baroness Scotland herself.

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In writing, we have Baroness Scotland waiving standard recruitment practices in order to award a £30,000-a-month contract to one of her closest friends. An astonishing conflict of interest involving vast sums of taxpayers’ money. This is cronyism at its most blatant…

Revealed: Baroness Scotland’s Bumper Contracts for Aides

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A Guido investigation can reveal for the first time the extraordinary fat contracts issued by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Baroness Scotland to her advisers. An internal probe was launched after senior officials complained that the taxpayer-funded salaries awarded to special advisers Matthew Doyle and Joe Phelan were excessive. Now a whistleblower has passed Doyle and Phelan’s contracts to Guido – they reveal that they were paid a staggering £15,000 each in April, £15,000 each in May and £18,000 each in June. These are vast monthly payments – more than the Prime Minister is paid per month – and the bill was picked up by the taxpayer.

Below are screengrabs taken from Doyle and Phelan’s contracts:

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Both Doyle and Phelan refused to speak on the record. They claim the payments relate to work done between January and September and therefore the money is not excessive. Yet the contracts explicitly state in black and white that these are monthly payments for work done between April and June. What’s more, Baroness Scotland was only appointed in April. Which raises three questions:

  • Why were Baroness Scotland’s advisers paid so much money over this three month period?
  • Why do these contracts state in black and white that the payments are for work done between April and June, if they in fact cover a period much longer?
  • Why was the Commonwealth paying for Baroness Scotland’s aides before she was appointed to her role?

These payments are the subject of an internal complaint within the Commonwealth Secretariat. They are the tip of the iceberg of a cache of leaked documents passed to Guido by a whistleblower. Stay tuned for more revelations about the extravagant world of Baroness Scotland’s Commonwealth office over the days ahead…

UPDATE: A Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman gets in touch to say Phelan was wrong to say the payments relate to work done since January:

“We wish to make it clear that both Joe Phelan and Matthew Doyle were paid by the Secretariat from April 2016 until their contracts expired earlier this month. They have now left the organisation. Your article implies that the Secretariat paid them from January 2016. As the contracts you have published show, this is simply wrong.”

Curiouser and curiouser…

Troughers’ Union Barron Broke Commons Code

One that you couldn’t make up: Kevin Barron, chair of the Standards Committee, broke the Commons code of conduct by taking money for hosting drugs company events in parliament. An investigation by the Standards Commissioner found that Barron sponsored three events for Japanese Pharmaceutical Group to use private dining rooms in the Palace of Westminster and accepted payment for the access. The breach was judged to be “minor” as he donated the cash to charity, so he’ll be allowed to keep his job in charge of sleazy MPs facing their own corruption probes. The troughers’ union Barron lives to pass judgement on future troughers…

Minister Warned CCHQ About Rape Arrest Aide

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CCHQ were warned months ago that they should sack Sam Armstrong, the Tory aide who has been arrested over an alleged rape in the Commons. Back in June Rob Halfon appealed to Lord Feldman to remove Armstrong from his job with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay. Halfon told Feldman that Armstrong had attempted to blackmail him – something Armstrong denies – and said it was “ridiculous” that he was still being employed. Despite this, and despite the Tories banning Armstrong from party conference last year, they allowed Mackinlay keep him on the payroll and give him a parliamentary pass. Why did Mackinlay keep Armstrong in a job? Why did Feldman fail to act? Armstrong would of course have known a lot about the South Thanet general election campaign’s expenses – which is also currently under police investigation. This has the potential to blow up in CCHQ’s faces…

Six Figures For Baroness Scotland’s Friends

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It is worth shedding some more light on the Mail’s recent extraordinary revelations about Baroness Scotland, the new Commonwealth Secretary General. The allegations are very serious – Scotland is essentially accused of using her position to hand out huge sums of taxpayers’ money to her staff and friends. An internal probe is looking at claims her advisers, including the Blairite spinmeister Matthew Doyle, were each being paid £16,000 per month, something they deny. Guido understands that the allegedly excessive salaries were queried by civil servants and raised at a higher level, with Scotland accused of an inappropriate use of public funds. And it doesn’t end there…

The Mail also revealed that Scotland had contracted a company owned by her friend Lord Patel to conduct a review of her department, paying KYA Global an astonishing £30,000 per month. Scotland and Patel are close friends, why on earth is the taxpayer funding this arrangement? Guido has done some more digging – KYA Global has no online existence and its only directors are Lord Patel and his wife. This is hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money per year we are talking about and the whole arrangement stinks. One to watch…

UPDATE: A spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretariat said:

Lord Patel and the advisers were part of a transition team brought in by Secretary-General Patricia Scotland. As we have said continually, they were asked to carry out specific work during a short period of time on a fixed term contract. They have now completed that work, their fixed-term contracts have ended and they are no longer employed by the Secretariat. Secretary-General Scotland would like to thank each of them for their invaluable contribution and wishes them every success for the future.”

Natalie McGarry Charged in Connection With Fraud

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Suspended SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been charged by the police in connection with alleged fraud offencesOch.

UPDATE: The charges are for embezzlement and breach of trust.[…] Read the rest

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