Council worker secured thousands of pounds in anti-terror cash for friend
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 April 2020
A council worker ignored government guidelines to secure Home Office anti-terror funding for a friend, documents allege.
Dozens of individuals and companies were investigated over their involvement with Tower Hamlets Council’s youth service up until 2016.
One of the reports concerns the council’s then-Prevent co-ordinator, Nojmul Hussain.
Auditors Mazars found a firm that received Home Office funds for anti-extremism projects “was a going concern for two employees of the Youth Service”.
The company is understood to have received £8,826 between 2013/14 and 2015/16.
In a report dated October 2015 it was stated that Mr Hussain had added extra specifications to the job description – narrowing the pool of suppliers that could take on the work.
Mazars noted that he and the recipients “are friends and mix with each other socially” and added: “The Home Office would not allow work to be subcontracted or delivered by council officers.”
In January 2016, a panel also found Mr Hussain had committed gross misconduct by penning a letter on Tower Hamlets Council-headed paper in support of a friend’s divorce case.
Despite this, he went on to work for Waltham Forest Council and now holds a senior position at Tower Hamlets Homes.
The allegations were put to Mr Hussain and his employer. A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Homes said: “All offers of employment made to positions with Tower Hamlets Homes are subject to thorough checks and references.”
Evidence from the broad-ranging investigation, which identified conflicts of interest, non-existent companies and grants being awarded apparently for political support in the council’s youth service, was recently released to the press as part of an ex-Tower Hamlets Council fraud investigator’s tribunal.
One group, Malmesbury Community Projects (MCP), which is still running today, became a tenant of the council-owned Caxton Hall in Bow in December 2010 at a peppercorn rent of £1 a day.
The organisation received £280,000 from Tower Hamlets between 2008 and 2015.
Its founding and sole co-directors are Nazir Ali, a then-Trading Standards officer at Tower Hamlets, and Ashraf Ali, who worked for the council’s transport and highways team.
In February 2019 officers visited Caxton Hall and found drug paraphernalia and numerous fire risks, and it was temporarily shut down. There is no suggestion Messrs Ali and Ali were involved in the drugs found.
When contacted by the Advertiser about the incident and the conflict of interests, an MCP spokesman said: “The allegations against MCP directors and trustees are untrue. After a lengthy investigation, the council found no wrongdoing by the trustees/directors.”
Inspire 74 Ltd, which received £26,440 from March 2013 to January 2014, purported to offer first aid courses at £45 each.
It was registered in 2011 at a flat off Cable Street, Whitechapel that was redeveloped in 2012: meaning all the payments were made out to a defunct address.
The only director was a youth worker who resigned in 2016 after 13 years in the council’s employ. He could not be contacted for comment.
The courses were not accredited with the regulator, OfQual, with the certificates littered with spelling mistakes – and costing triple that of the British Red Cross.
In his final report on the case, investigator Mark Edmunds wrote: “Given these circumstances, it is likely that those who attended the training courses may have believed they were adequately trained in first aid and able to respond to an incident when in reality there were not.”
In December 2015 council officers and police took possession of a council-owned building behind the shops in Burslem Street, hidden behind garages and a pair of steel gates.
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A large quantity of drugs believed to be cannabis, along with weighing scales, was found in an office there.
Several companies had been using “9B Burslem Street” as their registered address, including one called Stolen Land Limited: a clothing company run privately by two then-youth workers.
Another on the same compound was Camelot Training UK or CTUK, where a youth worker had submitted funding proposals totalling £70,000 to Tower Hamlets.
On interview, the employee said he “could not recollect” why he had sent incomplete documentation to the council and added: “I was merely a zero-hour worker seeking for additional duties in the service.”
When contacted by the Advertiser for comment, he said: “I don’t know anything about anything you are talking about” and hung up.
Silence from departed division chief over damning findings
The ex-boss of a scandal-hit youth division at Tower Hamlets Council has refused to comment on the magnitude of bad practice that took place on his watch.
Dinar Hossain served as head of the borough’s Youth and Connexions service (YCS) between 2008 and 2015.
His departure took place in the middle of an internal fraud investigation. Investigators concluded that corruption in the youth service appeared to be “endemic”.
Despite the alleged malpractice that took place during his tenure, Mr Hossain was offered voluntary redundancy by Tower Hamlets Council in December 2015.
From 2011 to 2014 he and colleagues had been the subject of an array of serious allegations from whistle-blowers.
Writing in 2014, one then-employee claimed: “I believe Dinar Hussain [sic] in the youth service should be investigated for mismanaging public service money. He was blatantly aware of wrong-doing but played a blind eye.”
Mr Hossain was found in 2015 to have signed off on seven payments of £74,000 to one of nine external firms that auditors Mazars concluded “did not exist”.
He was also the ultimate approver of credit card expenditure that saw 14 people bypass key controls to spend £149,193.96 between them in a year.
In July 2016, it came to light that managers had been placed by him on paid-for university courses 100 per cent funded by the council - even though they were not needed for their roles.
Mr Hossain went on to draft a new gangs’ strategy at Redbridge Council and then took on a role as strategic manager for youth provision at Brent in west London.
A spokeswoman for Brent Council said: “Dinar Hossain worked for the London Borough of Brent as an agency worker from October 2017 – July 2018.
“He was moved onto a 6-month fixed-term contract that expired in early 2019 when he left the local authority.
“All due diligence was undertaken prior to Mr Hossain’s engagement with the council.”
Voluntary redundancy was offered to Mr Hossain even though he went on to be replaced in the role.
Andy Bamber, an ex-Met Police borough commander and then-head of service for safer communities, oversaw the investigations from the outset until he went on sick leave in April 2016.
He did not respond to a request for comment on the outcome, or whether in his view the probe had gone far enough.
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