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Archive for July 26th, 2011

As predicted, Mayor Lutfur Rahman has appointed ambitious regeneration director Aman Dalvi as the new interim chief executive of Tower Hamlets, while communities boss Stephen Halsey (the man who was asked to help Lutfur’s friend Shiraj Haque with May’s Baishakhi Mela) has been picked as his deputy.

Lutfur is absolutely delighted with the dynamic duo. As the position of permanent chief executive is not his gift to give but that of the 51 councillors, it could well be that he tries to keep these “interim” arrangements going for quite some time.

 

Here’s his statement:

Mayor Rahman has today (July 26) revealed a new interim management team along with a new management structure.  This follows the announcement that Kevan Collins will be leaving to join the Education Endowment Foundation.

Aman Dalvi, OBE who is the current Corporate Director for Development and Renewal will be Interim Chief Executive.  Given the challenging financial climate created by government cuts, the Mayor is proposing to strengthen the interim arrangements.  Therefore, Stephen Halsey, the current Director of Communities, Localities and Culture has been asked to work alongside Mr Dalvi as the Deputy Chief Executive.

A report will be made to full council at its meeting in September.  The Mayor has written to the group leaders to keep them updated about the interim arrangements.

The council announced on Friday that the proposals for the interim Chief Executive appointment would be announced this week and would be drawn from within the existing Corporate Management Team following consultation.

Mayor Rahman said: “Kevan Collins has done a fantastic job for the people of Tower Hamlets for which I will always be grateful.  I wish him well in his new national role and I know that the children of England will greatly benefit from his expertise.

“I am fortunate to have a very strong Corporate Management Team and I am proposing that Aman Dalvi take the position of Interim Chief Executive supported by Stephen Halsey as his Deputy Chief Executive.  They are both exceptional managers with a proven track record of delivery in this great borough.  I have no doubt they  will accelerate momentum towards the delivery of my objectives of more and better social housing, tackling crime and drugs on our streets, improving access to jobs for local people and a better quality environment.”

As I’ve noted before, Mr Dalvi was until 2002 the chief executive of Ujima Housing Association. Let’s hope there’s no repeat of what happened there if he ever quits Tower Hamlets.

Within five years of him leaving Ujima, it had collapsed amid a major corruption scandal. (Let’s be clear, there is no suggestion he was involved.)

Six people have so far been charged or convicted of fraud and money laundering in two separate cases, the most recent less than three weeks ago. According to Inside Housing:

A woman has been found guilty of laundering £42,000 stolen from Ujima Housing Association.

Rosalinda Avwunu, 55 of Purley in Surrey, was found guilty of money laundering and transfer of criminal property by a jury at Isleworth Crown Court today.

The trial concerned £42,000 stolen from Ujima Housing Association which was paid in to Mrs Avwunu’s bank account in 2007.

The prosecution alleged that Mrs Avwunu knew or suspected that money transferred into the account was the proceeds of alleged crime by her husband. She denied any knowledge of or involvement in the fraud.

Her Hon Judge Molyneaux told the court: ‘That money was stolen from a housing corporation [Ujima Housing Association] by which her husband Mr George Avwunu was then employed. The money left her account in fairly short order from when it was paid in and then used on various expenses.’

Mr Avwunu was the finance director of Ujima. He absconded from bail in 2009 and has not been seen since.

In February, a consultant received a jail term. Again, according to Inside Housing:

A consultant at the centre of a £208,000 alleged fraud at the failed Ujima Housing Association has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Paul Campagne, 47, of Coulsdon, Surrey, was found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court last Friday of seven counts of money laundering. He had received £208,000 from the association’s finance director George Avwunu, which it is alleged Mr Avwunu stole from the housing association.

Dr Campagne had transferred £160,000 of this money into bank accounts belonging to Mr Avwunu’s wife Rose Avwunu, and into an investment firm owned by Mr Avwunu. He denied knowing or suspecting that this money was the proceeds of crime.

Although the jury convicted Dr Campagne, it was discharged after it could not reach a verdict on Ms Avwunu, who is charged with two counts of money laundering. A date for re-trial has not yet been set.

Mr Avwunu absconded from bail in 2008 and has not been seen since.

And next January, one of Mr Dalvi’s successors and two others will stand trial as part of a separate £3.5million alleged fraud at Ujima. Inside Housing reports:

Three men accused in relation to a £3.5 million fraud against Ujima Housing Association denied the charges in court yesterday.

The housing association’s former chief executive Kenneth Keith Karl Kerr, 55 of Twyford, and Gregory Simon Causer, 40 of Chalfont St Peter, and Alan Boswell, 52 of Worthing, all pleaded not guilty to all charges at Southwark Crown Court.

They were accused of theft, fraud, conspiracy to defraud and making false instrument. The charges included stealing £350,000 from Ujima Maintenance Services and making representations to London & Quadrant – which took over Ujima Housing Association – that they knew could be untrue.

The case will be heard on 23 January 2012 at Southwark Crown Court and is expected to last for eight weeks.

A few months after Ujima’s collapse, consultants KPMG concluded the disaster was the result of “bad management and an ineffective board” at the association. It said problems should have been spotted as early as 2006.

So as the council struggles to adopt to a new system of governance in which the Mayor has so much power to place his own people in important positions, let’s hope Mr Dalvi can establish a corporate culture of strict checks and controls that last somewhat longer than four years.

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