Wednesday 24 September 2014

Due diligence

Most people would probably agree that if you are looking for excitement, accountancy and financial services are probably not the most obvious choice of career, but there is one aspect of their work which can be surprisingly interesting, and that is due diligence.

At one point in his career Cneifiwr had the pleasure of working with a hush-hush department in a very large bank which vetted potential and existing clients for all sorts of peccadilloes ranging from grand larceny and corruption to unusual bedroom adventures. Fascinating stuff, and the surprising thing was how much of this information could be gleaned from searching stuff that is easily available online.

It is not clear how much due diligence local authorities do as they hand out vast amounts of cash to third sector bodies, developers and the like, but in Carmarthenshire at least, the answer would seem to be not a lot.

When the subject of one of Cllr Gravell's favourite charities came up a couple of years ago (here), the chief executive said that while the council inspected the services these third sector bodies were providing, it left it up to the Welsh Government to make sure that the money side of things was all in order.

Leaving aside the extent to which the council actually inspects the services provided by third sector bodies and the fact that it does not really seem to know how much it is giving them or whether there is overlap between their services, putting your faith in the Welsh Government might seem a risky thing to do. Think Awema or the recent revelation that £104,000 was paid into a fraudulent bank account.

Yes, we are back on the grants trail again.

At one of those private decision meetings the other day, Meryl handed out £302,000 to a company called Bassett MacGregor and Ash for an office development in Carmarthen. 

There is nothing unusual in that except that the normally very terse minutes of these meetings went out of their way to say:

"The Executive Board Member considered an application for assistance from the South West Wales Property Development Fund. It was noted that no financial commitment was required from the County Council and that a due diligence check had been undertaken on the applicant by the Welsh Government’s finance team and the project had been deemed low risk. It was further noted that the tendering exercise had satisfied the agreed procurement rules."

This message would seem to be aimed at interfering auditors of the professional and armchair kind. If anything goes wrong, it's all the Welsh Government's fault.

You would think it would go without being said that the procurement rules were followed, but there would seem to be some doubt as to whether this is always the case. Why say it otherwise?

Someone is clearly feeling a little sensitive.

In other grant news JBCH Developments, the company which declared itself dormant last year but which nevertheless managed to pick up over £4.6 million in grants, has put in a planning application for another speculative development on the Cross Hands business park. Or at least the application went in back in April and after languishing for five months has suddenly been validated.

The land on which JBCH would like to build a food grade industrial plant is currently owned by Carmarthenshire County Council.

So far this is a carbon copy of JBCH's other project. First you get a grant. Then you get planning permission for a piece of land you don't own. Some way down the line from there is the bit where you identify a client and sign a contract to build something for them.

The mystery again is why the builder gets the grant rather than the presumed owner and operator of the food processing business.

Away from the fairly grim industrial and retail parks of Cross Hands, the Tivyside Advertiser recently carried an interesting report from one of Cllr Gravell's other favourite grant recipients near Drefach Felindre (tipi weddings a speciality).

You can bet that won't make it onto Trip Advisor.

1 comment:

Redhead said...

Due diligence: Does this look ok to you Mark? Oh, yes, Meryl the directors belong to my golf club and support the Scarlets - very sound. Well, let 's nod that through then. Next ....