Corporate fraud manager to investigate Tower Hamlets councillor's expenses
PUBLISHED: 13:26 20 September 2012 | UPDATED: 15:08 20 September 2012
One of Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman's former key aides who is now an elected councillor is at the centre of allegations over his expenses.
Cllr Gulam Robbani, who won the Spitalfields by-election in April after quitting the mayor’s office as advisor on social services, was named in an emergency resolution passed by the council last night calling for the corporate fraud manager to look into his invoices for attending planning and other meetings over two years.
He claimed for a meeting on January 19 between Poplar Mosque, Swan Housing and Tower Hamlets council over the future of Robin Hood Gardens estate as the Mayor’s special adviser when he was also a director of the mosque itself, Tory Group leader Peter Golds told councillors.
Mr Robbani later submitted an invoice for £360 for the nine-hour meeting.
Cllr Golds, who warned he would call in police, told councillors: “He was paid by the council for this meeting in which he has a direct personal and commercial interest.
“This is a staggering conflict of interest. He was a director of an organisation involved in discussions with the council for which he was paid by the council and has billed the council for attending that meeting.
“If we don’t get a satisfied response from the Corporate Fraud Manager, I will be sending it to the Metropolitan Police—and if necessary Robanni will end up in the same direction as Shalina Akhtar.”
Akhtar was the disgraced councillor jailed for fraud in February, which caused April’s by-election won by Robbani.
Mr Robbani also claimed 18 hours at £40-an-hour for two meetings last October with Cllr Abdul Assad—yet Cllr Assad’s timesheets registered a total of just three-and-a-half hours, according to Cllr Golds’ motion.
“Robbani invoiced the council for work for the Blackwall Reach regeneration mosque meeting in January with Swan Housing and the council,” added Cllr Golds.
“It would be a staggering conflict of interest by any standard because he is one of Mayor’s closest friends and political associates and was a director of the mosque.”
Cllr Golds was told by the Town Hall that Robbani had resigned his position at the mosque at the time—but then discovered from Companies House that he was registered as a director of Poplar Mosque & Community Centre Ltd, councillors heard.
Cllr Robbani was offered right of reply by the Speaker last night to “give his part of the story”—but remained silent.
Other councillors joined the call for an investigation. One said he didn’t want to see “councillors or officers end up behind bars.”
They voted 31 to 14 for an investigation to ensure all invoices “have been properly claimed and paid.”