Probe dropped into 'fraud' at O-Regen charity with close ties to Waltham Forest Council

AN investigation into alleged fraud at a charity with close ties to Waltham Forest Council has been dropped by police.

The Met launched the probe into the O-Regen group, also known as Orient Regeneration, in May 2011 following "specific" allegations made by concerned officials at Hackney Council.

O-Regen owned a number of community facilities such as the Epicentre in Leytonstone and had been awarded contracts worth over £1million by Waltham Forest Council for unemployment schemes in recent years.

It was then plunged into financial difficulties and the council stepped in to try and help, but the charity went into administration just before police launched their probe.

But, in a statement today (Thursday December 27), the Met said evidence of fraud could not be established due to the "content of a contract". The Guardian is awaiting clarification from police about what this means.

A Met spokeswoman revealed that three former O-Regen employees had been interviewed by fraud officers during the year-and-a-half long investigation but none were ever charged.

Figures reported by the Guardian earlier this year revealed the charity was handed contracts worth £400,000 by Waltham Forest Council between 2008 and 2010 for schemes to help the long-term unemployed.

Despite evidence that the Leytonstone-based charity had failed to fulfil its obligations, it was then handed another similar contract worth more than £1.1m in July 2010.

Further concerns were then raised and the council sent an auditor to investigate.

He found problems "across the board”, including flawed accounting and pre-signed employee time sheets.

Then in January 2011 the cabinet member responsible for contracts with the charity, Cllr Afzal Akram, accused O-Regen bosses of providing “fictional" financial figures during a finance meeting.

But according to the minutes its management appeared to brush off the concerns by saying the figures were registered the previous year.

A subsequent report by the administrator found bailiffs regularly turned up at the charity’s offices and suppliers refused to deal with the organisation in the months before its collapse.

A Met spokeswoman said: "Waltham Forest Borough CID have conducted an investigation, in partnership with Hackney Council Fraud Department, into specific allegations of fraud at Orient Regeneration (O-Regen).

"Three former employees of O-Regen have been interviewed at a police station having attended voluntarily by appointment.

"No persons have been charged and the investigation is now complete.

"The offence of fraud could not be made out due to the content of the contract between Hackney and O-Regen."

More to follow.

Comments (16)

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1:38pm Thu 27 Dec 12

mdj says...

A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir.
Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general.

The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.
A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir. Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general. The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again. mdj
  • Score: 0

1:58pm Thu 27 Dec 12

cynicalsue says...

'A good day to bury bad news'. Well done LBWF, you have succeeded again
'A good day to bury bad news'. Well done LBWF, you have succeeded again cynicalsue
  • Score: 0

2:13pm Thu 27 Dec 12

SXH says...

Yet another cover-up by WF
Yet another cover-up by WF SXH
  • Score: 0

4:28pm Thu 27 Dec 12

NT says...

I think that this shows how difficult it is to establish fraud beyond reasonable doubt (always accepting that the Met tried).

It is a fact that both LBWF officers, and the Cabinet portfolio holder, believed O-Regen was involved in ‘double counting’ of staff and clients, said so, and committed their apprehensions to paper.

Yet the truth is also that O-Regen's paperwork was in such a chaotic mess that is was extremely difficult to establish exactly what double counting was going on where - crucial, obviously, to establishing a watertight case.

The real villains of the piece in my view are all those who were responsible for the original slip-shod contracts and the wholly inadequate level of subsequent monitoring - and that includes not just the Council but also, as I now learn, several government departments, which shoveled the money out but then hardly raised a finger to check how it was being spent.

From the standpoint of today, such irresponsible largesse seems almost incomprehensible, but I believe that for much of the 2000s it was, if not the norm, then nearly so.

It would be nice to believe that lessons have been learnt, but even that seems doubtful.

All in all, it’s a sorry tale.
I think that this shows how difficult it is to establish fraud beyond reasonable doubt (always accepting that the Met tried). It is a fact that both LBWF officers, and the Cabinet portfolio holder, believed O-Regen was involved in ‘double counting’ of staff and clients, said so, and committed their apprehensions to paper. Yet the truth is also that O-Regen's paperwork was in such a chaotic mess that is was extremely difficult to establish exactly what double counting was going on where - crucial, obviously, to establishing a watertight case. The real villains of the piece in my view are all those who were responsible for the original slip-shod contracts and the wholly inadequate level of subsequent monitoring - and that includes not just the Council but also, as I now learn, several government departments, which shoveled the money out but then hardly raised a finger to check how it was being spent. From the standpoint of today, such irresponsible largesse seems almost incomprehensible, but I believe that for much of the 2000s it was, if not the norm, then nearly so. It would be nice to believe that lessons have been learnt, but even that seems doubtful. All in all, it’s a sorry tale. NT
  • Score: 0

5:02pm Thu 27 Dec 12

SXH says...

Totally agree with you NT
Totally agree with you NT SXH
  • Score: 0

11:57am Fri 28 Dec 12

SXH says...

SpursSupporter1 maybe we can all join you
SpursSupporter1 maybe we can all join you SXH
  • Score: 0

1:33pm Fri 28 Dec 12

Sam Hain says...

"The offence of fraud could not be made out due to the content of the contract between Hackney and O-Regen." Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so. What are forensic audits for? The Met's bland statement raises far more questions that it answers but will no doubt be trotted out on all sides from now on as the perfect excuse not to have to answer them. No-one, on any side, comes out of this lamentable fiasco with their integrity intact.
"The offence of fraud could not be made out due to the content of the contract between Hackney and O-Regen." Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so. What are forensic audits for? The Met's bland statement raises far more questions that it answers but will no doubt be trotted out on all sides from now on as the perfect excuse not to have to answer them. No-one, on any side, comes out of this lamentable fiasco with their integrity intact. Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

2:22pm Fri 28 Dec 12

mdj says...

' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...'
Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do?
And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent?
Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops?
Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money?

It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'?
' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...' Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do? And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent? Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops? Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money? It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'? mdj
  • Score: 0

5:36pm Fri 28 Dec 12

NT says...

Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest.

Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place.

And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters.

As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year.

How do you think that auditor felt?

Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave.

And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no.
Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest. Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place. And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters. As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year. How do you think that auditor felt? Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave. And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no. NT
  • Score: 0

8:19pm Fri 28 Dec 12

Tom Thumb says...

mdj wrote:
A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir.
Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general.

The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.
Spot on, mdj.
[quote][p][bold]mdj[/bold] wrote: A quiet, wet day after Boxing Day, with the nation in deepest hibernation. One imagines that in organisations all over the country there are press officers on overtime, sitting at their desks with curling turkey sandwiches and a stop-watch, poised to announce the bad news at the moment most finely calculated to cause the least stir. Please, please, let this not be the end of this story! It's the symbol of so much that is wrong with this Council, and public governance in general. The phrase 'We're all in this together' has a particularly toxic resonance in this context: the 'We' of the people sitting on the committees being a rather different 'We' from the weary punters picking up the tab yet again.[/p][/quote]Spot on, mdj. Tom Thumb
  • Score: 0

8:25pm Fri 28 Dec 12

Tom Thumb says...

NT wrote:
Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest.

Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place.

And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters.

As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year.

How do you think that auditor felt?

Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave.

And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no.
I'm afraid part of the problem is that most of the population of Waltham Forest doesn't read the local paper or this website and is blissfully unaware of the true state of things.
The Robbins rabble know very well that old tribal loyalties ensure that voters will turn out in sufficient numbers to re-elect most if not all Labour councillors.
There is also a problem with the lack of any serious opposition in this borough. Neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems have much credibility.
The lack of proportional representation in the voting system ensures that fringe parties of the left or right don't get a look in. And anyone standing as an independent doesn't stand much of a chance when so many sheep will unthinkingly turn out to vote for the three main parties.
[quote][p][bold]NT[/bold] wrote: Sorry, guys, this is Waltham Forest. Of course many contracts are impenetrable, especially after the event - that is if they even exist in normal form in the first place. And as to the idea that there is one person in charge, that is also a non-starter: in all of these programmes, the management capability is small compared to the workload, while high staff turnover and longstanding vacancies (even where posts are senior) further complicate matters. As to LBWF forensic (or not) auditors, one was called in on the big O-Regen Worknet contract, and duly committed a series of devastating criticisms to paper. At a subsequent meeting, the Cabinet portfolio holder terminated the contract (with notice!) but then unambiguously indicated he was ready to work with O-Regen again in the following year. How do you think that auditor felt? Thats the problem you have when leadership is poor or introverted: decent council officers get marginalised, demoralised, or both, and in the end leave. And as to why lessons are nor learnt, why should they be? Is Mr Robbins under threat? Is the government interested in intervening? Is the electorate bothered? No, no, and no.[/p][/quote]I'm afraid part of the problem is that most of the population of Waltham Forest doesn't read the local paper or this website and is blissfully unaware of the true state of things. The Robbins rabble know very well that old tribal loyalties ensure that voters will turn out in sufficient numbers to re-elect most if not all Labour councillors. There is also a problem with the lack of any serious opposition in this borough. Neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems have much credibility. The lack of proportional representation in the voting system ensures that fringe parties of the left or right don't get a look in. And anyone standing as an independent doesn't stand much of a chance when so many sheep will unthinkingly turn out to vote for the three main parties. Tom Thumb
  • Score: 0

10:35pm Fri 28 Dec 12

SXH says...

mdj wrote:
' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...' Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do? And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent? Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops? Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money? It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'?
mdj interesting comment here
" even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do?"
banks hold details of all transactions in/out if there is no record of where the monies was spent then surely its fraud?
[quote][p][bold]mdj[/bold] wrote: ' Surely no contract is so impenetrable that the facts cannot be established if the will exists to do so...' Seconded, Sam: even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do? And when the Council sets up a project or delegates a task, does it not nominate a specific person to be responsible for implementation of that project, and accounting for the monies spent? Surely it should be automatic that,. when the figures don't add up, someone gets the chop, who knows in advance where the buck stops? Why did it take Hackney to raise concerns about the misspending of this borough's (ie, our) money? It's been disquieting the last few years to see the cosy relationship between council and police in this borough. Who agreed to provide Cllr Loakes with eight officers to close down a harmless takeaway, in the same week an officer was killed in this borough, and noone has been accused? Why all the vacuous awards the public sector hand out at big dinners to one another, for doing what most of us would simply regard as 'doing the job'?[/p][/quote]mdj interesting comment here " even if paperwork doesn't exist, surely the bank records do?" banks hold details of all transactions in/out if there is no record of where the monies was spent then surely its fraud? SXH
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Sat 29 Dec 12

Thunderbird4 says...

In 2007, government inspectors found schemes to bring the unemployed back into work, were more costly, than if the unemployed were just left to sign on. After all, if there was work, they would have been sent to it from the jobcentre. The Back to Work schemes cost the taxpayer millions, with no effect on unemployment.
In 2007, government inspectors found schemes to bring the unemployed back into work, were more costly, than if the unemployed were just left to sign on. After all, if there was work, they would have been sent to it from the jobcentre. The Back to Work schemes cost the taxpayer millions, with no effect on unemployment. Thunderbird4
  • Score: 0

11:36am Mon 31 Dec 12

Walthamster says...

This story and all the comments on it are relevant. The police MUST persevere, using bank records, forensic auditing and whatever else it takes. Waltham Forest has been getting away with laziness and negligence at best, costing us millions.
This is the closest we've come to getting a prosecution.
Don't give up!
This story and all the comments on it are relevant. The police MUST persevere, using bank records, forensic auditing and whatever else it takes. Waltham Forest has been getting away with laziness and negligence at best, costing us millions. This is the closest we've come to getting a prosecution. Don't give up! Walthamster
  • Score: 0

11:34pm Mon 31 Dec 12

ruby newbie says...

wow 14 comments on this one and not one from cornbeefer......
wow 14 comments on this one and not one from cornbeefer...... ruby newbie
  • Score: 0

9:51pm Tue 1 Jan 13

Mohammed f Christ says...

He can't currently comment; as all the facts are not available.
He can't currently comment; as all the facts are not available. Mohammed f Christ
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

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