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Juneja Investigator Kept No Records of Interviews

Published on: 30 Jun, 2015
Updated on: 2 Jul, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 17.54.33A notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) independent investigator into the complaint against former councillor Monika Juneja, kept no records of the “people he engaged with” and that he, not the council, retained the case file after the investigation ended.

The notice, published in August 2014, was brought to the attention of The Guildford Dragon NEWS by Ben Paton, who stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate in a by-election last November. Mr Paton has been a vociferous critic of the Conservative led GBC and the Draft Local Plan.

Information had been sought, under the Freedom of Information Act, on the method used to select Dr Robin Hooper and who he had met, when and for how long, during his investigation. The identity of the person who complained to the ICO is not known.

The commissioner’s office determined that GBC had, on a balance of probabilities, disclosed all the relevant information that it held and had complied with the Freedom of Information Act but within the notice it stated:

  • “The council has explained that Dr Hooper was appointed by its Monitoring Officer and that the terms of reference were agreed verbally in a telephone conversation. The council explained that such practice was not unusual where the issue is urgent and the objective of the engagement is relatively straightforward.
  • “Dr Hooper confirmed that he did not keep records of the people he engaged with as part of his investigation. The council confirmed to the Commissioner that it did not require Dr Hooper to keep such records as there was no business or statutory requirement for him to do so.
  • “The council’s originally (sic) response to this part of the request stated that the information was not held because the relevant investigation file was held by Dr Hooper.
  • “The Commissioner is mindful that, not unreasonably, the complainant considers that the council should have retained this information. The code of practice issued under section 46 of the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] contains recommendations for public authorities as to good practice in relation to record keeping and the establishment of audit trails in order to explain or justify decisions is identified as desirable practice.”

Dr Hooper was already known to GBC prior to his appointment as independent investigator as he had previously carried out the review of its management structure in 2013. This preceded the departure of David Hill, its former Chief Executive.

The Guildford Dragon asked council officers at GBC yesterday (Jun 29) to respond and say whether any council practices will be changed in light of the investigation, which found no wrongdoing by Juneja, and the subsequent court case in which she pleaded guilty to forgery, deception and pretending to be a barrister. The officers have also been asked to confirm the investigation file’s whereabouts now.

Three weeks ago a council report, the Annual Governance Statement 2014-15, had effectively exonerated all those involved in the investigation. Cllr Gordon Jackson (Con, Pirbright) chairman of the corporate governance and standards committee said at the council’s Executive meeting of June 11: “We felt that actually the report was a very balanced approach to what has actually occurred and would not wish to further investigate the matter so far as the officers are concerned.”

See: Council Report Accepts Juneja Case Has Caused ‘Reputational Damage’.

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Responses to Juneja Investigator Kept No Records of Interviews

  1. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    June 30, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I understood it that Dr Hooper in Dec 2013, when undertaking the investigation into Cllr Juneja, was being engaged by GBC to help review some ways of working which entailed working with former Cllr Juneja who as, at that time, the lead councillor for planning and governance was responsible for that area at the time.

    It seems almost certain that Juneja, under this remit would have met Dr Hooper in Dec 2013. Can someone confirm this within GBC? Or are there no records of this either?

    If this was the case then surely Dr Hooper cannot be considered truly independent as he had both been recently involved in the restructuring of the Guildford Borough Council and seems to have worked with the person he was supposed to be investigating and her close friend Cllr Mansbridge, the council leader.

    Perhaps GBC can clarify?

    Questions have been asked of GBC. Any response will be published. Ed

  2. Frank Phillipson Reply

    July 1, 2015 at 1:20 am


  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 1, 2015 at 8:27 am

    As one of the complainants, I offered to meet Dr Hooper. He declined the opportunity.

    As to best practice, as a procurement professional I find the approach adopted by GBC staggeringly negligent. Best procurement practice dictates that any significant expenditure is committed only on the basis of a written terms of reference, or contract, with an agreed schedule of fees.

    The procedure adopted in this case was completely contrary to GBC’s own procurement policy, detailed here.

    This includes the following requirement:

    “The tendering process will be equal and transparent and companies will be chosen on the basis of a number of factors, as set out in the Procurement Policy and the relevant specification or contract brief.”

    It is clear that the GBC procurement policy has been completely ignored in this case. I would urge GBC to investigate this lapse, and to explain why its own policies can be so casually ignored.

    There are, of course, always circumstances in which fast-track procurement is necessary. An investigation, the case in point, is normally going to have an urgency factor and a template terms of reference document should be available, to be edited as required. This would save time but still give definition of the terms to all parties. Ed

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    July 1, 2015 at 11:02 am

    This is the link to the document on the ICO website:-

    These are Cllr Jackson’s comments on the subject:

    Does this not further damage the council’s reputation?

    How are the Codes of Conduct actually enforced?

    Is there any independent scrutiny of the council’s decisions? Or can it do anything if it has a majority?

    Does not their silence make all the councillors, even those who did not vote in favour, complicit in these decisions?

    All these things have been done in name of the council and, by implication, the name of the people of Guildford.

    Is this the level of honesty, transparency and accountability we should expect?

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 3, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Looks like the next Private Eye “Rotten Boroughs” column is written.

    The councillors had no influence directly or through the governance committee on the so called inquiry.

  6. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Has the file has been found yet?

    Did the council tell Dr Hooper not to keep records?

    In the Information Commissioner report it was stated: “The council confirmed to the Commissioner that it did not require Dr Hooper to keep such records as there was no business or statutory requirement for him to do so”.

    Was this said in the verbal telephone conversation between Mr Mistry and Dr Hooper when he was originally engaged?

    An reasonable person would assume one would keep records unless one was told not to do so for legal reasons.

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