More Fun and Games in the Mayor’s Palace of Varieties

4 Jul

The Sunday Times carried a detailed story yesterday alleging that West Ham United made payments totalling £20,000 into the bank account of Dionne Knight, a director of the Olympic Park Legacy Company. This arrangement was put in place by Ian Tompkins, who is the director of West Ham who masterminded its Olympic stadium bid and Ms. Knight’s lover. In a previous life Mr. Tompkins was director of Communications at Newham Council, where he worked closely with the Mayor, Sir Robin Wales.

West Ham claims that the payments were for ‘consultancy work’ helping to prepare procurement documents for contracts to convert the stadium after the Olympics and that, as far as they were aware, the OLPC had given permission for Knight to do the work. They also claim the payments were on behalf of the Legacy Stadium Partnership, the joint venture entity with Newham Council that will own the 250-year lease on the stadium; as the partnership didn’t have a bank account set up they paid Knight directly. 

According to records at Companies House, Legacy Stadium Partnership LLP was first set up on 12 April 2011, but the Sunday Times says that the first payments were made to Ms Knight in the month before the OLPC made its decision in February. Quite how West Ham could have made payments on behalf of an entity that did not even exist is not explained.

Since the story emerged both Knight and Tompkins have been suspended from their jobs, pending internal investigations. Knight has admitted she hadn’t told OLPC about her work for West Ham.

The Sunday Times, perhaps predictably, has billed this as a “corruption scandal” and local anti-Labour blog London Borough of Newhamgrad uses the same word in its summary. That’s going too far, at least on the evidence to date.

But there are a number of fairly obvious questions that arise from all this about what Ms Knight knew about the status of the bids to take over the stadium and what she might have discussed at home with Mr Tompkins, and what he may then have communicated on to his employers at Upton Park to help them construct a winning tender. The OLPC says ‘chinese walls’ were in place and Ms Knight had no access to key information, or influence on the outcome. But as she was working for West Ham without their knowledge it is unclear how much of a grip OLPC had on the situation. One might also ask why West Ham, on behalf of the joint venture, felt it necessary to hire a consultant to work on stadium conversion procurements before it knew the outcome of the OLPC process and why it thought there would be no conflict of interest in hiring an OLPC executive to do it while the bidding process was ongoing. 

Of course Newham residents will have an interest in finding out the answers to these questions, as we are the ones on the hook for the £40 million loan being made to the Legacy Stadium Partnership (to the principle benefit of West Ham United FC), should the whole thing go horribly wrong. And if the 20 grand paid to Ms Knight was on behalf of LSP, as WHU say, half of it is our money – for which the Mayor is accountable.

 

 

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