Details of Caerphilly pay scandal revealed
DETAILS of unlawful payments given to senior officials at Caerphilly council have emerged.
Five senior officers, including two who are suspended as part of a police investigation, received more than £94,000 of unlawful payments as part of the salary hike scandal.
Anthony Barrett, Assistant Auditor General for Wales, states in the council’s financial accounts for 2012-13 that a total of £488,927 paid to senior council officers was unlawful.
These included the £270,364 in pay rises, £102,709 to buy-out allowances for essential car users, and £115,854 to buy-out additional annual leave.
Caerphilly council’s chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan and his deputy Nigel Barnett were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office after huge pay rises were awarded to 21 senior officials at the authority. Mr O’Sullivan received a total of £25,182, while his deputy, Mr Barnett, received £13,870.
Section 151 officer Nicole Scammell was given £21,647, Sandra Aspinall, director of education, got £19,083, and Albert Heaney, director of social services received £14,279.
The police investigation, which is being undertaken by Avon and Somerset Police, began after an initial report from Mr Barrett said the pay rises were unlawful.
In the latest financial accounts, notes taken from the Public Interest Report from the WAO published in March this year explains why the payments were deemed by Mr Barrett to be “unlawful”.
The notes state: “Certain officers, including the chief Executive, who would have been, and were, beneficiaries of the decision were present throughout the meeting to approve the salary increases. No declarations of interest were made and these officers did not leave the room whilst the decision was made. In doing so, they participated in the decision-making process.
“The report presented to the Committee was authored by the chief executive who was a direct beneficiary of the decision made and who gave advice on a matter in which he had a pecuniary interest.
“The report by the chief executive did not consider the full range of options identified by the Hay Group (tasked with recommending revised pay structures), as set out in the appendix to the report. Nor was there any detailed and explicit consideration of these options in the meeting of the Committee. The Wales Audit Office considered that these additional matters in themselves rendered the decisions taken by the Committee unlawful.
“As a consequence, there is an amount of £270,364 included in expenditure in the 2012/13 accounts, which is considered by the Wales Audit Office to constitute unlawful expenditure.”
A spokesman for Caerphilly council said: "We have received confirmation from the Wales Audit Office that they consider payments made to senior officers relating to the buy-out of car allowances and additional annual leave as being 'unlawful expenditure'.
“A few months ago we voluntarily referred the matter to our external auditors and it is still being investigated. We are currently awaiting their view on the matter."
A special inspection into Caerphilly council will take place later this year following “significant failures in governance”, which were published in last month’s Annual Improvement Report by the WAO.