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GBC’s New Chief Exec Hopes to Draw a Line Under the Fraud Investigation

Published on: 2 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 2 Apr, 2024

By Emily Dalton local democracy reporter

and Martin Giles

The new Chief Executive for Guildford Borough Council (GBC) said he wants no financial “surprises” and to “draw a line under” the £18.5 million overspend and fraud investigation. 

See also: Meet the New Joint CEO: ‘I’m Here To Make Guildford and Waverley Brilliant Places’

Pedro Wrobel

The investigation into GBC’s housing department was launched in September 2023 after allegations in housing repair contracts for work on council properties. The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) has so far arrested one man and executed several search warrants in the ongoing investigation.

But SEROCU has not responded to requests to confirm that the arrestee was released from Crawley police station within hours of his arrest, having declined to be interviewed on the advice of his solicitor. It is also been reported to The Dragon that he is now subject to a travel restriction.

GBC has described the investigation as having several “complex strands”. A GBC spokesperson said: “Whilst we cannot provide individual details about these, the investigations/reviews underway are as follows:

  • “External criminal investigation into alleged fraud within our housing maintenance service being led by SEROCU
  • Internal governance review being led by an independent consultant whose report will go to our Corporate Governance and Strategy Committee
  • Internal investigations in respect of employment matters of two individuals
  • Investigation launched by our Joint Senior Staff Committee (JSSC) in regards to the knowledge and actions of senior staff.”

Cllr Julia McShane

The JSSC is co-chaired by Council Leaders Julia McShane (Guildford) and Paul Follows (Waverley) with four other councillors including the Conservative opposition leaders at each council Philip Brooker (Guildford) and Peter Martin (Waverley).

See: Taxpayers Money Could Have Been Saved If HRA Investigation Had Been Conducted Differently

CEO Pedro Wrobel, who has a background as an economist and a civil servant, said he wants to “account for every penny”, understand what went wrong and ensure the council deals with it.

“An issue like that can’t happen without there being plain management failings,” Pedro said. “There should be systems in place to prevent it and from getting to that size”

Cllr Paul Follows

The fraud investigation in the housing maintenance repairs service was escalated to the regional organised crime unit due to the “size and complexity” of the issue.

While the police enquiries are ongoing, an internal investigation has also been probing the housing department. Pedro said he wants everything to be brought to a “swift conclusion” and “draw a line” under the investigation.

Working on corporate management and financial governance, the new CEO is hoping to bring forward his Improvement Plan for June 2024.

Stressing that the council’s administration takes the fraud investigation “seriously”, Pedro said GBC will learn from what has gone wrong and “put it right”. He said he wants to put the council in a petition showing how every pound given by the taxpayer is being used.

Wodehouse Place

Wodehouse Place residents, who are living with unfinished repairs at the council-owned property, invited the new CEO to visit and see the impact of the fraud investigation. Pedro agreed to the invite, stating: “If you forget about the people at the heart of everything, you’re going to get the wrong answer.”

See: Long Awaited Repairs to GBC Housing Not Expected for Another Six to Nine Months

Admitting there is “work to do” on GBC’s reputation, Mr Wrobel said there is the “essence of a good council” and hopes the “issues don’t overshadow the good work the council has done”.

Joining GBC six weeks earlier than expected, Pedro will start his full role as joint-CEO with Waverley on April 6.

See other Housing Revenue Account (HRA) investigation articles here.


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Responses to GBC’s New Chief Exec Hopes to Draw a Line Under the Fraud Investigation

  1. Alan Judge Reply

    April 2, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    “so far arrested one man and executed several”

    Crikey that was one hell of a line break.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 2, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    So given Cllr McShane has been the housing portfolio holder throughout, she now gets to investigate herself. You couldn’t make it up. She really does need to consider her position.

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