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…

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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”.

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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…

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