FORMER senior managers of the now defunct Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corp-oration are to be taken to court over irregular sums of money paid to themselves in lieu of notice reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
No names have yet been revealed but the Enquirer understands former chief executive Niall Lindsay and former director of resources, Sean O’Donnell, are being chased for the cash, believed to be tens of thousands of pounds, in the County Court.
And investigations are still ongoing by the Department of Community and Local Government which could result in further criminal prosecutions.
In response to our probe into the payments, Communities and Local Government Minister Baroness Joan Hanham, told the Enquirer: “Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corp-oration was a Government quango that has now been closed down as part of our decentralisation agenda, and its powers have been given back to the local council.
“Financial concerns were raised during the closedown and a government investigation has found that irregular sums of money were paid in lieu of notice.
“This is not acceptable. We are working with Thurrock Council to take whatever steps are necessary to protect taxpayers’ interests.”
A spokesperson for Thurrock Council said: “Legal proceedings have been issued by Thurrock Council in the County Court to recover monies against two former directors of the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation.
“This action has been instituted by the Council in accordance with its responsibilities under the transfer order made in March 2012.”
Earlier in the Enquirer investigation we were told by a spokesperson for the Department Communities and Local Government: “The Department takes allegations of irregular payments very seriously. We can confirm that the Department asked for an investigation into the events leading to the closure of the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation by our internal auditors. The investigation is currently ongoing. On completion of the investigation, we will consult with the relevant authorities. If any evidence of criminal activity is uncovered, this will be referred to the police.”
News that action is being taken has been welcomed by Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, a long time critic of the Development Corporation and an acclaimed watchdog for the public purse.
She told the Enquirer: “I raised a number of questions with DCLG and the auditors which have informed this investigation and I have been in close contact with them at every stage. Public servants must never forget that they are spending money that is taken from us as taxpayers to be spent on a purpose determined by Parliament.
“I fear that this is not the only occasion where the closure of a Government quango has led to irregular payments made to staff, indeed we saw it at the East of England Development Agency as well as the Development Corporation.
It just isn’t acceptable and I fully support the action by Thurrock Council to recover the monies via the Courts.”
Ms Doyle-Price also believes there should have been more local accountability, with a number of key local figures including councillors from both main political parties, serving on the DC board. She said: “There has also been a serious failure in accountability here.
“We rely on members of the Board of the Development Corporation to give appropriate challenge to the executive to ensure that public money is not wasted.
“How did they let this happen?
“I get the feeling that the board was all a little bit too cosy. Once again we see people taking the money that goes with these appointments and not doing the job they are there to do for the taxpayer and for Thurrock.”