Sunday, 15 January 2012

Some Are More Equal Than Others

It's been a while since I last wrote about Nottingham Equal. I've been chasing up a few Freedom of Info requests here and there which has shed a bit more light on the help they have received with their fundraising activities.

I have been writing about concerns with possible conflicts of interest between NCC's decision to end funding for the now closed Council for Equalities and Human Rights Nottm and Notts and the funding of Nottingham Equal for some time. These were initially based around Hassan Ahmed's involvement in the NE and jointly making the CEHRNN funding decision.

Let's have a bit of a recap. Ahmed and Cllr Chapman made the decision to stop CEHRNN's funding immediately in March 2010. In October that year a portfolio decision was published to fund Nottingham Equal to the tune of around £70k which seemed a bit of a coincidence. This funding came via One Nottingham. In April 2011, a further year of funding was allocated, the decision to do so citing 'satisfactory monitoring information' as a justification.

I was quite interested in this 'satisfactory monitoring information' so I put in a FoI for it. An interesting point this revealed is that the monitoring information concerned a period from April to December 2010 and reported on performance on a service level agreement which was only signed by representatives of Nottingham Equal (one of whom was Tyron Browne) on 19 January 2011. In other words, we have a report on outputs and outcomes before those outputs and outcomes were even agreed. Odd that.

What is also apparent is how closely that Nottingham Equal matched its targets. The target for the number of organisations supoorted was 8 and the number of organisationas actually supported was 8. The target for getting individuals involved in 'dialogue' on decision making was 30 and, you'll never guess, the number of individuals who became involved with 'dialogue' was, happily, 30. One target was exceeded, they organised two meetings against a target of just one, but of seven targets, six were met exactly. There was a week between the SLA being signed and these outputs reported. Thank the maker for happy coincidences.

In the meantime I had been trying to get hold of the tender consideration meeting minutes for this decision from One Notttingham who eventually refused. I went to the Information Commissioner who decided that, although ON weren't subject to FoI, the council should have responded instead because I had copied them into my review request. Not the result I was expecting but I have now had the minutes of the meeting, held 10 May 2010, and they make some interesting reading.

Firstly, the attendees include Hasseeb Ahmed, NCC's Head of Equalities. He was CEHRNN's project officer and wrote the damning (and seriously flawed) Equalities Impact Assessment which resulted in CEHRNN losing their funding. He was also listed as Nottingham Equal's project officer on their SLA but whether he had become involved by the time of this meeting I don't know.

Secondly, the original NCC portfolio decision confirming funding for Nottingham Equal (see link above) said that funding an alternative organisation had been considered as an option but that 'no comparable organisations existed'. The minutes contradict this somewhat because there was an alternative tender from an organisation called 'HRN'. In the remarks it was noted that their 'delivery vehicle' was CEHRNN.

Now then, due to Haseeb Ahmad's previous involvement with CEHRNN there is a strong argument that he had a massive conflict of interest being involved in this decision. He cannot possibly have come to the discussion with an open mind and assessed a bid involving CEHRNN dispassionately. Two other members of the panel expressed 'concerns about the delivery vehicle - CEHRNN' which strongly suggests that HRN never stood a chance. Nobody expressed any concerns about Nottingham Equal, despite Hassan Ahmed being a founder member and at the time of the meeting being before Standards for England accused of breaching the councillors code of conduct, nor of Tyron Browne's involvement when he had figured rather large in the housing allocations scandal.

If you've followed the story of CEHRNN, Nottingham Equal and the associated individuals it is extremely hard not to seriously wonder whether it was a king sized stitch up to take the funding from CEHRNN, pass it over to a more friendly organisation in the form of Nottingham Equal and do it via One Nottingham to make it more difficult to scrutinise what happened. This latest information in the form of the tender meeting minutes only adds to that impression.

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