Housing fraud report kept under wraps as senior Guildford and Waverley officers step back "to preserve integrity of investigation"

Suspected fraud and alleged breaches of procedure in Guildford Borough Council’s housing maintenance team have snowballed, culminating in a police investigation.
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Last year, the council instigated a staff investigation following what was described as “an issue” within the housing maintenance department of Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils. They share services as part of a cost-cutting drive.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understood at the time that staff had been suspended, contracts terminated and possible fraud examined. Surrey Police previously confirmed it had escalated its fraud investigation to a regional organised crime unit.

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This week, the two councils announced they had received a report following a review of its housing maintenance team.

New CEO Pedro Wrobel (image GBC)New CEO Pedro Wrobel (image GBC)
New CEO Pedro Wrobel (image GBC)

It found ‘serious areas of concern’ which they said needed further investigation to determine whether correct governance processes were followed in the letting and management of housing maintenance contracts.

The councils have also announced that two strategic directors, Annie Righton and Ian Doyle, responsible for the relevant service area at the time contracts were let, have both agreed to step back on a temporary basis from their roles “to protect the integrity of the investigation”.

However the councils said they were “unable to provide a copy of the confidential report” as it’s “essential that the integrity of any investigatory process is upheld.”

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Leader of Guildford Borough Council, Councillor Julia McShane and Cllr Paul Follows, leader of Waverley Borough Council issued a joint statement.

It read: “Public bodies need to be absolutely resolute in their commitment to openness, transparency and accountability for public money.

“We are determined to identify exactly what has happened in order to safeguard both councils and continue to deliver on our commitment to best value and service delivery possible for all our residents and businesses.”

The councils joint chief executive, Pedro Wrobel, said: “When it comes to public money, nothing is more important than propriety and value. All monies should be used to deliver the best possible services for our residents and businesses.

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“I will be working with officers, councillors, external investigators and auditors to get to the bottom of these issues and account for every penny.

“I will ensure the organisation has the right systems in place to safeguard the public’s money, and will take robust action where necessary.”