Councillors Call for External Review of Cardiff’s Waste Management Service After Corruption Scandal
Councillors have called for an external review of Cardiff’s waste management service after five men were prosecuted for bribery and corruption.
The offences, which resulted in losses to the council amounting to about £417,000, took place at Bessemer Close recycling centre and involved four members of staff being paid cash bribes by a skip firm boss, Warren Roberts, to falsely record the weights and type of waste depositied by his company.
Cardiff Council was alerted to the offences after a whistleblower alleged corruption within the waste management team.
Roberts, 54, along with Cesario Deabreu, 33, and Joshua Hayman, 33, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery at a hearing in May 2022 and were sentenced to 28 months imprisonment, 22 months imprisonment, and nine months imprisonment suspended for 12 months respectively.
Andrew Barnett, 54, was found guilty of bribery offences at Cardiff Crown Court and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and Anthony Miles, 55, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery at a hearing in June 2023. He was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.
The council said a post-trial review will be carried out and led by the local authority’s corporate director for resources, also known as the section 151 officer.
However at a full council meeting on Thursday, November 30, Conservative councillor Joel Williams said this review should instead be carried out externally to “restore public trust and confidence”.
The council said that any outcomes and recommendations which might further enhance its process for tackling fraud will be reported to the local authority’s governance and audit committee and “acted on”.
Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for climate change, Cllr Caro Wild, said “it is absolutely appropriate” for the section 151 officer, Chris Lee, to lead the review.
Cllr Wild added: “The review will also be reported as stated through the governance and audit committee.
“The committee itself will have a say on how this review will be scoped and undertaken.
“It is also important to note that the governance and audit committee itself will play a key independent role in this work and it is noted that it includes a mix of councillors and independent members.”
Sole trading waste disposal company A&T Waste Management made about £238,000 from the scam and it is estimated that about £175,000 in bribes were paid to council staff.
Cllr Williams said: “We have got a lot of issues going on in the waste department, there is a lot of background noise, there is a lot of irrelevant stuff that is going on, and I want to get to the bottom of this corruption scandal.
“We have had a serious trial which has ended in criminal convictions, jail time for former council officers, so I think the public needs some reassurance that what we are going to do is we are going to be completely independent and impartial.
“We want to know what went on as elected members so I would ask you to clarify why is it that an internal review is being favoured other than and rather than an external one?”
Cllr Wild responded: “It was appalling the acts that took place and I commend the work of the police in dealing with it.”
He later continued: “For all we know there may be external support needed for this but that is for the professional view of the 151 officer, one of the best in the business.
“We have got some of the best professionals at Cardiff Council, we trust them to do it, and then we have got a brilliant audit committee that gives us all of the oversight we need so let’s see what they come back with and go through a really good process.”
The leader of the Liberal Democrats group at Cardif Council, Cllr Rodney Berman, called the offences that occured in the waste management department “horrendous” and said it was good that members of staff involved in the corruption were ultimately held to account.
He added: “However what we need to understand is why the misrecording and significant under-charging of disposed waste wasn’t spotted earlier and why the council’s systems didn’t identify any discrepancies that could have been picked up by management in the 14-month period during which this scam was operating.
“What went on only came to light due to the actions of a whistleblower rather than being spotted by managers.
“A full and proper investigation is therefore essential and having an external investigator would certainly bring greater confidence that any identified failings wouldn’t simply be brushed under the carpet.
“I am not convinced that an internal review will necessarily give us the necessary insight.
“We need to be assured that all lessons will be learned from what went on and, for that reason, I would support an external investigation being undertaken.”
A Cardiff Council spokesman said: “This was a serious fraud which saw three council employees that no longer work for Cardiff Council, and an agency worker, conspire with an external client for personal gain and to defraud the council.
“Now that the court case is over and reporting restrictions have ended the council can confirm that we alerted the police and have done everything that we could to aid the investigation.
“Also, although we have already strengthened internal controls in this area, we will now carry out a post-trial review.
“This will be led by the Section 151 Officer (Corporate Director – Resources).
“Any outcomes and recommendations – which might further enhance our process for tackling fraud – will be reported to the governance and audit committee and acted on.”
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