DfID Slams “Poorest Performer” Baroness Scotland

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The Department for International Development has delivered a scathing assessment of Baroness Scotland, labelling her Commonwealth Secretariat one of the “poorest performers” when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money. A new DfID report out today has found “the Commonwealth Secretariat continues to underperform” and that “improvement is essential if DFID is to continue to fund the organisation”. The report warns “the Secretariat requires urgent organisational reform” in terms of “transparency” and “human resource management”, slamming Scotland’s department for its poor “financial management and budget discipline”. The Commonwealth Secretariat scored a mark of 2 out of 5 on transparency, accountability and value. This could not be a more damning indictment of Baroness Scotland’s exorbitant spending and lack of accountability…

Baroness Scotland to Deliver Anti-Corruption Lecture

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Who have Transparency International decided is the best person to deliver their “Annual Anti-Corruption Lecture” next week? Baroness Scotland will be giving the talk, discussing how important it is “to champion integrity, increase public awareness on the adverse impact of corruption, and promote appreciation of how important it is that the UK acknowledges the pressing need to tackle corruption within its own borders”. Transparency International admit it’s a slightly odd choice given the Baroness has been mired in a sleaze scandal of her own. They say:

“We are aware that since then a number of allegations have been made against Baroness Scotland and our Annual Lecture will provide the ideal opportunity for her to respond directly to those claims, as well as allowing members of the public and press to raise any questions they may wish to ask.”

Starting with that £307 toilet seat, those phantom school fees and her £90,000 crony contract

Vaz Dodges National Crime Agency Meeting

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Since Keith Vaz’s appointment to the Criminal Finance Bill committee this week it has sat twice, on Tuesday and today. For some reason – to the great disappointment of hacks – Vaz has absented himself from both sessions. Guido can give readers some background as to why that might be…

Guido understands Labour whips have been told that not only is Vaz now under investigation by Scotland Yard, they have been made aware that four files regarding Vaz have been passed to the National Crime Agency. Given that the Bill committee has been taking evidence from the National Crime Agency, it would clearly be completely inappropriate for Vaz to attend this committee. If Vaz had attended he would either have to recuse himself or declare his interest. Rather than face the embarrassment, slippery Vaz has unofficially recused himself by not showing up…

Vaz to Scrutinise Unexplained Wealth Laws

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Today’s Sun reports Keith Vaz has been appointed a member of the Criminal Finance Bill committee despite being under active police investigation. As Guido reported last month, Vaz’s role will include helping to scrutinise new plans to strengthen so-called Unexplained Wealth Orders, anti-corruption laws where assets can be seized if owners are unable to explain how they were funded. This is something of personal significance to Vaz, who in 2012 was subject to another police investigation which found up to £500,000 of funds believed to have been “of a suspicious nature” were paid into current and savings accounts in his name or linked to him:

“There are numerous unexplained payments into the accounts and large transfers between accounts that require further investigation… the level of funds received … are of a suspicious nature”

Vaz did not declare where the money came from. At one point detectives claimed £28,959 in cash was paid into an HSBC account held by Vaz, with no explanation. This is all without mentioning the mystery behind Vaz’s £4 million global property empire, which he has also never explained how he has been able to afford. Vaz is now scrutinising laws on unexplained wealth…

Baroness Scotland’s New Loo Seat Cost £307

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Baroness Scotland charged the taxpayer £307 for a new loo seat in a bathroom in her Mayfair home which cost £24,000 to refurbish. She has also admitted spending thousands to paint six rooms with top-of-the-range Farrow & Ball paint, despite previously dismissing reports as “outright lies, half-truths and innuendo”. Scotland spins in today’s Times that she was “furious about some of the money spent”, yet leaked emails show it was her staff who complained to her about the costs and pleaded with her to reduce her demands. In the email below the most senior Commonwealth official notes it is Scotland who “wants her bathroom completely done” and says the paint was her priority:

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Makes a complete mockery of Scotland’s previous statements. Remember her promise: “There has been no extravagance…”

Guy News Visits Baroness Scotland’s Mayfair Mansion

During her Today programme interview last week, Baroness Scotland invited listeners into her Mayfair home to show she was telling the truth that there is “no extravagance”. Guy News took her up on her offer…

PM Demands Answers From Baroness Scotland

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Theresa May has broken her silence on Baroness Scotland, demanding answers and insisting the Commonwealth Secretariat needs “reform”. The PM has said during her trip to India:

“The UK is a strong supporter of the Commonwealth – we believe as an organisation it has a role to play in dealing with shared challenges around the world such as human rights. We believe it does need to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. That means there does need to be reform of the secretariat. For Baroness Scotland, of course she needs to respond to the allegations that have been made. She will be judged on how she delivers on that need for reform for the Commonwealth secretariat to be operating effectively and efficiently.”

Baroness Scotland told Today she had the PM’s full support. Doesn’t sound like it. Have May’s furious Indian counterparts raised the recent revelations?

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’

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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.

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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.[…] Read the rest

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