I did my proper concerned citizen thing today and attended my first ever NCC meeting. I've sort of planned to go to a few but this was the first time a meeting that I was at all interested in coincided with a sensible night's sleep and no feeling that facing the outside world was less preferable than chewing my own feet off. I'd like to say it was an interesting experience. Well, I'd like to, in fact it was crashingly dull, but there you go. I won't be making a habit of this.
My interest in going was due to the fact that it was examining the decision to give Harold Tinworth the £30k contract for 'Executive Development' which is the new name for the work he's been doing for the last four years or so without so much as a decision to approve the expenditure or a proper tendering exercise.
Now it's arguable that it wasn't necessarily that vital in the grand scheme of things but what struck me was that nobody in the meeting seemed to know that the District Auditor had become involved and told them that they couldn't just keep handing money over to a consultant with no official basis and that they had to put it on an official footing. Well, either that or they did know and were under strict instructions not to say so out loud. In answer to questions as to why Executive members suddenly needed the training, Hassan Ahmed went on about the 'dynamic political environment' and mentioned the new government as a reason. The Director of HR said that the Chief Exec's office had suggested that suddenly it was a good idea to put the work that Tinworth was doing on a formal footing, like they'd somehow woken up one morning and thought "I know what would be a good idea..."
Personally I was having trouble hearing what was going on over the huge trumpeting sound coming from the elephant in the room that was something like 'Harold Tinworth has been working for NCC for years, nobody really knows what he was doing or who authorised it but we're not allowed to look at that because call-in can only be used to look at a portfolio decision.' To be honest, if it wasn't for the Tinworth back-story it wouldn't have been a strong candidate for call-in at all. So there was an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing asking why Tinworth got the contract and how it was known that he was good at his job when there had clearly been no formal evaluation of the work he did because nobody outside the inner circle knew he was doing it. Hassan Ahmed was forced to admit that their knowledge of his expertise had previously been kept 'within the political environment'.
Some trivia points that came out of the day was that Tinworth was supposedly initially hired by Michael Frater (nice and safe, implied blame for lack of paperwork, no chance of anybody checking thanks to the watertight confidentiality agreement he would have signed) and secondly that JoCo had previously done some work for one of the companies, Solace Enterprises, that had been invited to tender but who didn't bother. This latter point was eventually agreed not to be too sinister though.
One thing I've yet to work out is why the tender assessment document (see document (c) page 8 here) quoted a cost of about £22k for Tinworth's services but by the time of Ahmed's portfolio decision it had risen to £30k. No doubt that will be clear to someone somewhere. Please do write in.
The meeting ended up having to be adjourned as it couldn't go on into the afternoon. I'd pretty much lost the will to live by then. They're back tomorrow but I'm currently considering whether to rejoin them.
Updates - have had a look through the paperwork and it seems that Solace were also initially involved with Tinworth's early work for NCC. Also, despite JoCo's previous protestations that Tinworth wasn't just working with him but with other Executive Members and senior managers from the off, all the early documents talk exclusively of Tinworth's work and meetings with the Leader.
I didn't go to the reconvened meeting in the end, will have to wait for the 'Post' report to find out what eventually happened although I can largely guess.