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Asmat Hussain, Corporate Director of Governance, tells Rachael Tiffen of CIFAS about the High Court’s overturn of the borough's 2014 mayoral election, and what happened next
In 2015, the former mayor was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, including vote-rigging, so the council needed to start on the process of rebuilding trust with the election authorities, staff and local residents.
Asmat became Tower Hamlets’ statutory monitoring officer after the fraud had happened, along with a whole new leadership team including chief executive William Buckley and a new financial director.
With commissioners in charge following a PriceWaterhouseCoopers investigation, the council developed a delivery plan, putting in place measures to ensure members’ decisions were made within the rules; to introduce greater transparency and openness around mayoral decisions; to relaunch whistleblowing procedures; to institute new staff training and to promote a website where members of the public could report concerns about fraud.
In June 2019, Tower Hamlets underwent a Peer Review conducted by the LGA, which concluded among more detailed findings that they were now ‘a normal council’.
When this interview took place, in November 2019, the council was just starting preparations for the December 2019 general election.
Cifas is a not-for-profit fraud prevention membership organisation, with members coming from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Cifas provides the secretariat for the Government’s “Fighting Fraud and Corruption Locally: the local government counter fraud and corruption strategy 2016 – 2019”. The strategy, developed by councils for councils, sets out the approach local authorities should take, and the main areas of focus required to transform counter fraud and corruption performance.