THE Editor of the South Wales Argus was called as a witness in the second day of the trial of a Gwent council official facing allegations of misconduct.
Farooq Dastgir, 53, head of technology-led transformation at Torfaen council, and director of IT at Monmouthshire council, faces two counts of false accounting involving more than £28,000, and misconduct in a public office.
A second defendant, Gary Inchliffe, 52, of Beechcroft, Trelewis, managing director of IT suppliers Camelot, is charged with one count of false accounting. Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
It is alleged Dastgir tried to use £10,000 of Torfaen council money to pay for a newspaper supplement highlighting digital developments in the county borough.
Cardiff Crown Court was told yesterday by Torfaen council's head of communications Neil Jones, that in discussions about the supplement in February 2011, it had been decided the council should not pay for it.
An e-mail sent by Mr Jones to then Argus publisher Kevin Ward in May 2011, was read indicating Dastgir was happy with the option of a £10,000 supplement and would provide details of a single private sponsor, rather than several contributors.
It is alleged Dastgir made an agreement with Inchliffe whereby Camelot would receive £10,000 of Torfaen council's money to pay for the supplement as that single sponsor, through the creation of a false invoice for cabling work at the Shared Resource Services base. That work was not done.
Dastgir's defence counsel Huw Evans, said his client "was very much seen as a visionary" by the council.
The second prosecution witness, Argus editor Mr Ward, said he understood there would be no public funding for the supplement.
He said: “Initially we were told there would be some form of private sponsorship. We then received communication from Neil Jones that there would be one single sponsor.”
Mr Ward said he spoke with Inchliffe by telephone the day after Torfaen council informed the Argus there were issues with the supplement.
He said: “I was trying to understand why we had a message to say the cheque was going to be cancelled. Mr Inchliffe suggested at that time he had been let down by the council in some way.
“He told me he didn’t have the funds to honour the cheque.”
By this point, the court heard, the supplement had already been printed. Mr Ward said the supplement was eventually paid for by Torfaen council.
In cross examination, Mr Evans challenged Mr Ward on the revenue and advertising space sought by the Argus, asking why Torfaen council were not offered a discount and suggesting it was “wrong” for the newspaper to seek advertising when the supplement was already paid for by the sponsor.
Mr Ward said: “I don’t see how that’s wrong.
“You are mixing two entirely different things. If they wished to advertise and there were a reasonable number of these [advertisements] we would increase the pagination.”