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Friday, June 26, 2009

Why so quiet on IT consultancy?

Freedom Central has already covered the payment of £10,000 by the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr to his National Party chair and Plaid PPC for the adjoining seat for IT consultancy. There is no suggestion that anything untoward took place but unlike other stories about legitimate allowance claims this one was tucked away inside the Western Mail, who have failed to follow it up by asking the obvious questions.

We have been told that this money was paid to supervise the installation of a new computer system in the Ammanford office of Adam Price. By definition that is a fairly small operation. Even combined with Rhodri Glyn Thomas' office as suggested I suspect that we are talking about four or five staff at most. In addition the majority of those staff, if not all would have use of either the Parliamentary network or that belonging to the Assembly, together with the software associated with them.

There is of course a strong case to set up a separate network unconnected to official channels to run applications to pursue the legitimate work of MP and AM and I have no problem with money being spent on this. However, £10,000 seems rather a lot of money and I think that it is only reasonable that questions are asked as to what exactly Adam Price got for it. The consultancy time purchased appears to be more than adequate to perform the stated tasks. So was additional work carried out and if so what?

We are also told that the tasks involved unifying the casework staff of Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Adam Price. If that is the case was Assembly money paid out to Mr. Dixon as well? If so how much? Would this increase the number of hours of consultancy paid for? If so then what work was carried out in that time?

As a taxpayer who helped fund this work I believe that these are legitimate questions to ask. It does not matter who did the work, what matters is whether we got value for money.
I do not understand your argument. On the one hand you say "There is no suggestion that anything untoward took place". On the other, you say there "are legitimate questions to ask".

If nothing untoward has taken place, the answers to the questions you pose are of no interest (other than perhaps to other offices looking to go down a similar route). On the other hand, if your questions are attempting to determine whether public funds have in some way been misused, then you are suggesting that something untoward may have taken place. Both assertions cannot be right.

It would be useful for you to clarify the true purpose of this post.
I am saying that there is no evidence that anything untoward took place in the awarding of this contract or in the nature of the contract itself. However, I am puzzled as to why so much money was spent on what seems like a simple task and am asking that some clarity is given on what was paid for and whether value for money was given. In other words I am seeking to scrutinise the expenditure from the position of a neutral but interested observer. I don't think there is any inconsistency in that. It is the sort of thing that happens in Council and Assembly Committees all the time.
Councils and Assembly committees have formal scrutiny roles. With respect, you have no formal scrutiny powers over Parliamentary expenditure.

And I dare say many would dispute your suggestion that your are neutral.

But you have posed the questions. Let's see if they are answered.
If the expenses controversy has taught us anything then it is that we all have a scrutiny role, formal or otherwise.

Stonemason, blogger does not allow me to edit comments just accept or reject them. I cannot therefore publish your allegations without proof. I have edited it below therefore as a new comment to concentrate on the questions.
If the work is considered a legitimate expenditure by Westminster, did Price and chums advertise for tenders, can it be demonstrated that the taxpayer had value for money?
Your spot on Peter. A seperate body would be good . 10 big ones is far too much for spyware and so. It was riddler that did the biz here.
yes, we all do have a scrutiny role ina representative democracy although i doubt if Adam Higgitt
is too keen on that. We all have a vote and a say. Well done pete for highlighting this.
Regarding Adam Higgitt's comment:

"...Councils and Assembly committees have formal scrutiny roles. With respect, you have no formal scrutiny powers over Parliamentary expenditure."

We should all be scrutineers, every one of us! If we think that there is something "not just quite right", then it should be questioned.

Case in point; last October in the middle of the banking crisis, a number of local authorities and one of our Police authorities in Wales had monies invested in the Icelandic Banking system, considerable sums of Tax Payers monies at that, of the order of tens of millions of pounds.

I took it upon myself to contact the Wales Audit Office to investigate....
I took it upon myself to contact the Wales Audit Office to investigate....

Very commendable. As you note, we should all scrutinise the actions of our elected representatives. If we feel something is amiss we should, like you, notify the appropriate authorities. My point about Peter's lack of formal aegis stemmed from his self-comparison with council and Assembly committees.

Perhaps Peter should follow your example, if he believes there is a case to answer.
Adam Higgitt....

If you would like an eye opening experience, I would suggest you take a trip to your local authority council offices, ask to see the register of members interests.

One of three things happen:
1. they deny all knowledge that such a register exists
2. they will say that it isn't in the public domain.
3. they will begrudgingly hand something over, which in my experience is usually incomplete!


BTW Peter is aware of my enquiry to the WAO - Thanks!
Peter is right. The silence of the Welsh media on this is astounding. I have been told that the story was given to BBC Wales' Political Editor and Welsh Affairs editor days before the Western Mail ran it. They said they would look into it, then did nothing until after the western mail ran a half-hearted piece.

If this was a Tory MP it would be on the front page.
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