A cross-party investigation panel of London assembly members said there were concerns about the capacity of the winning consortium – led by the University of East London (UEL) – to deliver on the £1.3 million project.
The mentoring scheme has been mired in controversy since last year when it emerged that a black-led consortium – led by Freeman Oliver – was rejected despite coming top of the bidding process.
BBC London and the Guardian’s Dave Hill have exposed a web of links between the mayor’s office, Ray Lewis, UEL and other organisations in the winning consortium.
A special panel of London Assembly members have now released a report into the debacle, which you can read here.
The Time for Action panel said the project was lagging behind because “way the appointment of the delivery consortium was made and the subsequent problems with the winning bid’s delivery partners.”
Four junior members of the winning UEL consortium - Ethos, Kiyan Prince Foundation, Robert Levy Foundation and London Action Trust, and the London Action Trust – left the project in the early stages, which left UEL scrambling around for new partners to run the scheme in seven London boroughs.
The report commented: “We are disappointed that as of the end of February there was still no delivery body active in Haringey.”
Assembly members Len Duvall (Labour) and Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem) have led questioning of the scheme, which was launched after Boris Johnson promised to match 1,000 black mentors with 1,000 at-risk black boys.
The role of the mayor’s mentoring champion Ray Lewis is highlighted in the report. ”A majority of members of the Panel also remain concerned about the role of the Mayor’s Mentoring Champion during the process of tendering and awarding the mentoring grant.”
Lewis’s role was ”of particular concern given the lack of clarity over his declarations of interests which only went into the public domain after the bidding process was over.”
Assembly members questioned why Lewis sat on the decision-making panel and, after the grant was awarded, then “asked UEL to consider taking on a particular individual as a Programme Director, which they did.”
Lewis was grilled by the panel over his links to Dr Ian Joseph of UEL, who delivered the scheme. Lewis admitted they were personal friends and attended the same church.
The mayor’s budgets and performance advisor Nick Griffin sat on the board of a junior partner in the UEL consortium the London Action Trust (LAT), which has since gone into Administration.
Former Tory mayoral candidate Steve Norris chaired LAT and also sat on the board of Lewis’s Eastside Young Leaders Academy.
The Assembly panel raised concerns over the way the decision was taken to pick the UEL consortium over the high-scoring Freeman Oliver partnership. The panel said: “A majority of members of the Panel have raised a number of concerns about the lack of transparency over important exchanges that took place outside of the formal…meetings.”
A number of key meetings took place ”outside of the formal interview meetings and for which there are no records.”
Sir Edward Lister, Chief of Staff to Boris Johnson and Deputy Mayor, was drafted into the decision-making process halfway through. The official explanation was for him to provide “fresh insight.”
But critics have questions why Sir Edward got involved. Ron Belgrave, who chaired the first half of the decision-making process before being sidelined by Sir Edward, told the panel that the Freeman Oliver bid was “head and shoulders” above the other bidders.
The panel were critical of City Hall’s decision not to seek financial assurances from Barnado’s, a junior partner to Freeman Oliver, who could have guaranteed a financial bond to satisfy financial safeguards after Freeman Oliver failed due diligence.
The panel said: “A majority of Panel members have also raised concerns over the decision not to pursue a financial bond from the partner organisation of the highest scoring bid, which could have been used to underwrite the bid as a whole.”
UEL currently remains some way off achieving 1,000 mentor-mentee relationships. The mayor’s office promised that 180 mentors would be matched with mentees by the end of December, but so far the winning bid has delivered on just a third of that figure, matching 63 young people with mentors.
The mayor’s office originally suggested that 1,700 potential mentors had applied but it later emerged that just 454 people had applied. 20 per cent were white and 10 per cent described themselves as Asian.
The Assembly also questioned the mayor’s claims to have cut reoffending rates in Feltham youth offenders institution “from 80 per cent to 19 per cent” following the opening of a new ‘Heron’ rehabilitation unit. His office later admitted the reoffending rate was 41 per cent compared to a national reoffending rate of 61 per cent.
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