Archive for November 27th, 2012

Just a couple of months after I highlighted some quite worrying discrepancies on the invoices submitted by Gulam Robbani during his time as an adviser to Lutfur Rahman, it looks like there are questions surrounding another of his colleagues.

The invoices emanate from the weird and wonderful world of Lutfur’s rapidly expanding mayoral office. This is where that merry band of male-dominated mayoral advisers lives under the watchful gaze of Murziline Parchment, the chief of staff with an impeccable eye for detail.

One of those little foresters is Mohammed Jubair. He’s been mentioned before on this blog because when he’s not imparting his great wisdom onto the lesser qualified press officers (and Takki Sulaiman) at the Town Hall, he acts as chief reporter for Channel S television station which is run by a convicted fraudster.

But what actually is his job? On January 31 this year, John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, emailed Tory leader Peter Golds with a list of mayoral advisers. I reported that list on this blog here a fortnight later. Here’s what John wrote in January about Jubair’s role:

Mohammed Jubair – Advisor on community media matters for one day per week at a cost of £175 per day

Remember that: one day a week. That’s £9,100 a year for 52 weeks.

Let’s have a look at the invoices Jubair has been submitting. They’ve been released under a Freedom of Information request to the Tories and relate to the period from June 2011 until February 3, 2012.

The total of these invoices is £18,550. That’s 106 days at £175 per day over an eight month period. That’s a little more than “one day per week”.

There are a couple of points to make about this.

1. What contract was Jubair on during this period? In January 2012, the following advert appeared on the Londontenders website seeking two mayoral advisers:

Description: Advisory Service to the Mayor in the following areas broken into two lots:

Lot 1 – Communities’ Communication and Media

Lot 2 – Communities and Public Policy

The anticipated contract start date is 6th February 2012. The contracts will be for a maximum period of up to 30th April 2014 but may be renewed on a periodical basis.

The Council is looking for one provider per lot and anticipates a maximum annual budget of £30,000 per lot.

The anticipated contract start date is: 6th February 2012

The estimated value of the contract is:

£60,000 per annum for both lots.

Deadline for expression of interest and return of quotation is:

Friday  20th January 2012

The supporting documents for the tender gave the following job description for the communications role:

Lot 1: Communities’ Communication and Media

  • Advising the Mayor and Cabinet members on community media matters.
  • Advising the Mayor on effective integration of community media matters with all media workstreams.
  • Advising the Mayor on effective use of, exposure to and management of community media.
  • Keeping the Mayor and Cabinet members updated on all aspects of community media matters.
So, when John Williams emailed Cllr Golds on January 31, it seems he couldn’t have been referring to this new contract because a budget of £30,000 a year is clearly more than one day a week. The Londontenders website has no details of any earlier 2011 contract.
If John’s email to Peter is accurate, Jubair was over-invoicing and there are questions that need answering. Of course, the email may have been wrong and Jubair’s invoicing may have been legitimate. Either way, the matter needs investigating.
2. Under the Government’s transparency agenda, the council is required to detail all payments to suppliers over £500. But during the period June 2011-February 2012, I could only find three payments to Jubair from the Mayor’s office: two on October 7, 2011, for £525 and £700; and one on December 5 for £525. This is curious. If the invoices were rejected, the payments wouldn’t have been made, of course. Again, this needs investigating.

And thanks to Jubair’s invoices, we now have a much clearer idea of what Lutfur and Parchment meant by the word “communities” in their job advert.

Silly old me thought that because “communities” was in the plural, he’d be working for more than one community. But every single item on his invoices relates to the Bengali media only. No favours have been done for the Somali or Chinese communities, nor for the various east European communities in Tower Hamlets.

And he has arranged nothing for the mainstream media, such as the national press or the East London Advertiser, or The Wharf.

Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t see any other “mayoral adviser” hired to deal with other media at such a detailed level.

Which shows us exactly where Lutfur’s priorities lie in his supposed desire to create this One Tower Hamlets.

He’s using public money to direct it at one section of our community only. I’d have thought that divisive — and discriminatory. Perhaps that needs investigating as well.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission may have something to say about this. After all, its predecessor, the Commission for Racial Equality, criticised the council a few years ago for holding special press briefings exclusively for the Bengali press.

Oh, and one last thing. When you’re a £30,000 a year “communications adviser”, you should really be able to spell the word ‘English’ correctly….

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