Taxi driver who fought six years to expose illegal funding at FACT receives apology - and £30,000 compensation - from Cambridgeshire County Council
- Credit: Archant
A taxi driver who spent six years fighting illegal behaviour at community transport provider FACT is to receive £30,000 compensation by Cambridgeshire County Council.
The financial agreement was announced last night by county council bosses after they also revealed that both chief executive Gillian Beasley and council leader Steve Count had apologised to Dave Humphrey.
"The council has now agreed with Mr Humphrey on a final settlement of £30,000 to compensate for his lost earnings over this time," said a council statement.
The money was also "in recognition of the adverse effects that his work to bring this issue to a conclusion has caused him".
Mr Humphrey's efforts - heavily supported throughout by the Cambs Times - led to the commissioning by the county council of an independent study that confirmed multiple irregularities dating back many years over payments made to the Fenland Association of Community Transport (FACT) and its Huntingdon and Ely subsidiaries.
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Our campaign in support of Mr Humphrey - whose evidence of wrong doing had also included the taxi industry's own commissioned report by a forensics accounting specialist - exposed how hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money had been paid out to FACT in what was found to be unlawful.
This newspaper successfully defended legal action initiated by the then board and management of FACT as we fought to bring the allegations of wrong doing into the open.
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The county council admitted last night that "if we make mistakes, we apologise; we learn from them and we try to put things right".
Part of the outcome of the county council's own commissioned inquiry, the PKF report, led to over 50 changes being made to the funding of FACT.
It also led to the immediate departure of former manager Jo Philpott and, later, to the departure from the FACT board of some trustees, including former councillor Kit Owen.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds may yet be required to be paid back to the county council once more investigatory work has been done on public sector funding and whether grants have been given to FACT in breach of regulations.
The county council said last night "it always seeks to be a transparent and responsible council. Our aim is always to do the best for local people and to spend public money appropriately".
The council explained that after she was she was appointed in 2015 as chief executive, and after discussions with council Leader Steve Count, Gillian Beasley set up the independent audit into the council's dealings with community transport providers FACT/HACT and ESACT.
"This was as a result of a long running campaign by local taxi drivers and in particular Dave Humphrey, the taxi drivers' association chairman," said the statement.
"The association believed taxi drivers and private hire companies were being unfairly disadvantaged in bidding for transport contracts from the council - a view confirmed when the results of the independent PKF report was heard by the council's audit and accounts committee last July",
The council says that inquiry showed they had made mistakes in the way it procured community transport and in its dealings with FACT/HACT and ESACT which had disadvantaged other local transport providers.
"It also highlighted a number of failings in the way FACT/HACT and ESACT worked and was managed," says the statement.
"The report also set out an action plan for improvements aimed at both the council and FACT/HACT and ESACT
"The council apologised for its own part in this, and outlined how it had already made many of the suggested actions and gave timescales for completing the others.
"It worked with FACT/HACT and ESACT to ensure immediate changes were made within the community transport operator's organisation."
The statement noted that "Gillian Beasley and Cllr Count also made a personal apology to Mr Humphrey and the taxi drivers association for the time it had taken for their concerns to be properly considered and acted upon.
"They promised that the council would look at making compensation to Mr Humphreys, for the time he had lost from his own business while involved in collecting evidence, and preparing and pursuing the case which eventually led to the independent audit".
Gary Christy, the new chairman of FACT, said the organisation was co-operating fully with a major investigation into alleged fraud now under way by Cambridgeshire Police.
Police have used IT experts to analysis payment data and to verify expenditure of an organisation that enjoyed a multi million pound turnover.
Police also seized computer records of the former FACT management team.