Sunday, 26 June 2011

BDO Alto - Troubles with the Sources

Rico Sorda, on his blog, has been reviewing the BDO Alto report in some detail. It seems to me that there are two questions relating to the report which he raises.

The first is that of privileged communication. It appears that BDO Alto had access to the Wiltshire team's investigation, including privileged information supplied to them by Lenny Harper, which was for the sole purpose of their investigation, and was not to be divulged to third parties; it was supplied, it appears, under the belief that the Wiltshire reports would be used as part of a disciplinary hearing relating to Graham Power.

The second relates to anomalies in the dating of the BDO Alto report, and relate in part to Mr Mick Gradwell, then Senior Investigating Officer in the States Police.

This was prompted by an investigation about a leak of the BDO Alto report to Mr David Rose, a reporter for the Mail on Sunday:

Deputy Pitman: 'Will the Minister clarify what was the conclusion into the brief investigation into who within the Police Force leaked the interim BDO Alto report to a UK child abuse denier journalist and has anyone been suspended over the action?'

Senator Le Marquand: 'The person most likely was the former SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) who took on the Historic Abuse Inquiry and who left in August 2009 with very noisy publicity for his predecessors.'

However, this is contradicted in two ways:

Firstly, Mr Gradwell, denied this. While he did make comments about expenses, very loudly and publically, he denied making a leak from the report, and as far as I can see, he did NOT quote verbatim from it:

Mr Gradwell said he had not leaked the report to the media but had made legitimate public criticisms of how the Haut de la Garenne investigation was carried out.

So if he did not leak it, who did? He is the easy "fall guy" because he had been outspoken, but was it someone else who may have seen the report? Who had access to it?

Secondly, if he did leave in August 2009, how would he have had access to the report?

In the introduction to the report, it mentions an "engagement letter of BDO Alto date 29 September 2009" giving instructions to undertake the investigation from the Home Affairs Minister. Now this is almost a month after Senator Le Marquand says that Mr Gradwell left, so at first sight, it appears difficult to understand how he somehow retained access to a police investigation after he had left.

Then there is a further problem also mentioned by Rico. This is mentioned by Senator Le Marquand in his reply:

An 'interim report by financial auditors' was leaked to the Mail on Sunday in October 2009, eight months before the report was submitted to the Minister and was used in a highly critical report on the conduct of the Haut de la Garenne inquiry. It appears that a Senior Police Officer was responsible for this leak.

Now the Mail on Sunday has several quotes from the report, and this is the one concluding the section on dog handling:

The auditors' interim report concludes: 'It was an expensive mistake to bring in Mr Grime. It would have been far preferable and much cheaper to have tried to obtain appropriately trained dogs and handlers from UK police forces.'

Since the engagement letter was dated 29th September 2009, and the Mail on Sunday quotes went out on 4th October 2009, there appears to have been a remarkable amount of ground covered in a short space of time. What is especially significant about the quotations is that they relate for the most part to conclusions, and that they are word for word the same - not a paraphrase.

Nobody who has looked at source criticism, the study of ancient sources, could come to any conclusion but this: before BDO Alto had an engagement letter in place, they had already carried out the bulk of their work. As the final report was not published until May 2010, the question is why was there an apparent delay of 8 months, when the leak shows good evidence - based on exact wording between leak and final source - that the bulk of the report was complete by October 2009.

Indeed, Senator Le Marquand is most perplexed by this mention of an engagement letter:

I have a ministerial decision which was signed on 26th February 2009 endorsing the undertaking of an external review of the efficient and effective use of resources incurred by the States of Jersey Police Historical Child Abuse Enquiry by BDO Alto. I do not know why BDO Alto made reference to an engagement letter dated 29th September 2009 because they were instructed and started work months before then. That Ministerial decision indicates that I was endorsing the review because the decision to have the review was made first by my predecessor Deputy Andrew Lewis.

Reading between the lines of what BDO Alto actually said, I think one can present a likely hypothesis for what may have occurred:

In accordance with your instructions, confirmed in our engagement letter dated 29th September 2009, we have prepared a Report considering the efficient and effective use of resources during the Operation Rectangle Investigation.

Either BDO Alto were being extremely sloppy and inaccurate in their reference to an engagement letter, or they were given instructions, presumably beginning with Deputy Lewis term of office, and which was, as he said, endorsed by Senator Le Marquand. Somewhere down the line, it emerged that Deputy Lewis had not actually signed a formal engagement letter, and this was issued on 29 September 2009, to clear up the anomaly.

Thus we have "instructions" which may well have been specific from originally Deputy Lewis, endorsed by Senator Le Marquand - but not a formal "engagement letter" (as mentioned) - that would have come from BDO Alto - it is the firm of accountants that issues the engagement letter to the client to sign, not the other way round - that is why it is "our" engagement letter.

Usually, when a firm of accountants takes on a job, it issues an engagement letter almost immediately, because that is their legal contract with the client (for the client to sign). For some reason, in this case BDO Alto seem to have omitted to do this for around ten months! Perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, it was issued in September 2009 because it was needed for a report which was, to all intents and purposes, in nearly its final form. Why the delay? Was it to check their conclusions with those of Wiltshire on expenses, and make sure there was nothing omitted or contradictory? Perhaps Trevor Pitman's Scrutiny Team will find out.


Anonymous said...

The fact remains, it was leaked by a SIO who had left the Jersey force!!!

Anonymous said...

I thuught Ian Le Marqaund had already explained in his e-mail that the BDO Alto report had already been started many months before hand?

TonyTheProf said...

As it is clear above, from the email quoted, he did explain this. But the leak - often citing CONCLUSIONS verbatim, suggests the report must have been more or less complete by October 2009.

The question is why the delay in publication?

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but it does come across as a bit of a storm in a tea cup. The timing of this report is of little importance but its contents and findings most certainly is.

TonyTheProf said...

The timing is suggestive of two possibilities:

(a) that it was held back to ensure it tied in with the Wiltshire report on expenses, and did not contradict it. But the citing of conclusions in the leak suggest that this would have been minor.

(b) that the report was pretty well complete by October 2009 (disregard the title "interim" which suggests something only half-done) and was intended for a disciplinary hearing that year, rather than later (and eventually failing).

In the case of (b) the report might have been held back so that it could be presented at the same time as Wiltshire rather than earlier.

This ties in with the failing timetable for disciplinary action caused by the delays in Wiltshire, and the failure (as I see it) of Home Affairs to act as proactively to ensure speed as was done in the Quinn case when the outside agency was also dragging its heels, but the then President of Defense chased them until they got it done.

Unless there are supporting time records from Wiltshire, I am inclined to suppose that the Jersey investigation was not given high priority, as no deadline had been set (a failure on the part of Deputy Lewis), so Wiltshire could come back to it when they had spare capacity. That would also account for their somewhat shambolic style of presentation, which unlike BDO was not presented as a coherent sustained arguments.

TonyTheProf said...

Where have I suggested a conspiracy? I have presented various rational historical reconstructions as to why agents involved may have acted the way they did.

That is not conspiracy theory.