Gwent Levels drainage boards’ criticised men resign
11:37am Monday 22nd October 2012 in News
TWO men criticised by the Wales Audit Office in a damning report on a drainage board have resigned from the body.
Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board members Neville Waters and David James helped fund legal action against the body, but attended meetings where the action was discussed, despite their conflict of interest.
Julie Boast, finance and support services manager for the drainage board, confirmed to the Argus both board members have nowleft.
The Wales Audit Office (WAO) report, which was published on October 8, said the drainage board had lost sight of the fact it was a public body that existed not to serve its own ends, but those of the people who live and work on the Gwent Levels.
Mr Waters is a former magistrate and former High Sheriff of Gwent who also previously served as chairman of the body.
He told the Argus: “I’ve been on the board for 55 years. It’s time to retire.”
Asked if he was resigning because of the audit, he said he was not going to go into the reasons and didn’t want to talk about the report.
“I’ve got my views,” he said at his farm in Ponthir. “I will keep them to myself.”
According to the report, in 2010 Mr Waters and Mr James both helped fund a court action taken by Leonard Attewell, also a board member, against the Environment Agency to obtain a declaration that the body was responsible for seawall maintenance.
After the agency argued it was the drainage board who was responsible, the Nashbased body was joined to the action.
The report said that after the point the board was joined to the claim, members with an interest should have declared it at meetings where the matter was discussed and should have left them, but all three board members took part in such meetings.
Mr Waters had chaired a meeting, attended by Mr Attewell but not Mr James, where the board resolved by vote to accept liability. The resolution to accept liability was later rescinded.
The WAO auditor said the three members failed to differentiate their roles as members of the board from their roles and interests as private individuals.
However, he accepted, they did not act with ill intent.
Mr Attewell had already resigned.
COMMENT: It’s time to face reality
IT IS time members of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board faced up to reality.
Their time is up.
The public body that forgot it was serving the public, according to the Welsh Audit Office, is no longer fit for purpose.
It has acted contrary to law, overpaid its former chief executive (who, unbelievably, was able to recommend his own pay levels) to the tune of £100,000, and thrown away public money.
Despite all this it looks as though the public money wasted by the drainage board will never be recovered and it is likely there will be no prosecutions.
Two more members of the board have now resigned. But others who were board members while the quango was pouring public money down the drain remain in post.
They all have to go, other than those who blew the whistle on the way the board was operating, if the organisation is to have any credibility or public confidence.
And the way the board operates in the future needs to be radically different. One of the members who resigned had been on the board for 55 years.
That is ludicrous. There should be fixed terms of office for this body as there are for many similar organisations.
And the drainage board has to be properly accountable and thoroughly scrutinised to ensure its betrayal of the people it was meant to serve never happens again.