Hove councillor calls for fraudulent building contractor to be named

Posted On 08 Jan 2016 at 12:16 am

A Hove councillor has called for the building contractor who overcharged for council maintenance work by £300,000 to be named.

Councillor Robert Nemeth said that identifying the fraudulent sub-contractor would reduce the risk of others being conned into overpaying.

Some tradesmen have also voiced concerns that they could be the subject of unfair suspicion if the rogue building contractor remains anonymous.

He was sacked by the council’s contractor Mears after checks by Brighton and Hove City Council identified overcharging over 17 months.

Councillor Robert Nemeth

Councillor Robert Nemeth

Mears and the council are trying to agree how much the contractor should pay back for the work on council houses and flats.

Hove Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said: “It is common practice to name and shame rogue traders.

“Doing so reduces the chances of this individual committing further fraudulent acts but also sends out a strong message that Brighton and Hove City Council is not a soft touch.

“I have asked for the name to be released.”

The council said that it had spoken to Sussex Police about the fraud but were advised that it was a civil not a criminal matter.

It also said that it was up to Mears to decide whether to release the name of the sub-contractor who has been sacked by the company.

The council said: “Our own in-house contract compliance team discovered overpayments were being made to one sub-contractor and has worked proactively with Mears and the council’s internal auditors to put the service back on track.

“We have taken steps to recover the overpayments owed to the council and improve the controls and inspection regime with our contractor and their sub-contractors.

“Mears provide a comprehensive responsive repairs, planned maintenance and major works service for council homes across the city under a 10-year contract.

“Around 20 per cent of the annual contract is responsive repairs and approximately 4 per cent of the annual cost relates to sub-contracted responsive repairs.

“The overcharging is isolated to a single sub-contractor working on a small proportion of responsive repairs.

“The sub-contractor involved with the overpayments no longer works with Mears and we’re now working with Mears to strengthen processes and procedures to prevent any reoccurrence.

“This includes reducing the amount of sub-contracted work (currently around 30 per cent of responsive repairs contracted work) and having a new quality assurance manager within the Mears team.

“A follow-up audit will also be carried out in the next financial year.”

  1. Kevin Reply

    Name and shame these crooks. I have my suspicions but we as a public have the right to know who they are as they could have over charged those in the public sector as well

  2. M Brodie Reply

    Interesting! As a leaseholder I have had to question over charging/mis charging for major works carried out by the council resulting in thousands of pounds being refunded!!! Pot, kettle, black?!

  3. Ann Gardiner Reply

    why is it only a civil issue?? its theft in any guise isn’t it?? and theft of public money!! Name him and shame him….if you don’t he will be knocking on the door of elderly and vulnerable people next!

  4. Dick Reply

    Why are we so surprised….Contractors have been reaping the benefits for years due to Council incompetence.

  5. Valerie Paynter Reply

    The coy council position just tells me Mears has got BHCC where it wants it – compromised.

    Thank you for speaking out, Robert!

    I’d like to think new Housing Chair, Cllr Anne Meadows, and new Head of Housing, Tracy John, are pushing for ‘clarifications’ concerning what has become an inextricably entangled partnership between Mears and naive, out of its depth BHCC officers with zero experience of the building trade. BHCC needs to bring nuilders on staff who can talk knowledgeably to Mears in its own language.

    Mears has too much power.

  6. feline1 Reply

    “named and shamed”? Should be in jail, surely?!

  7. Ted Reply

    Surely this must be a wide spread problem for local authorities with big contractors, at least the council spotted it and are hopefully dealing with it seriously.

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