Chapter 13

The heating contractor who was just a load of hot air

If thou employest plain men, and canst find such as are commonly honest, they will work faithfully and report fairly. Cunning men will, for their own credit, adventure without command; and from thy business derive credit to themselves.

Thomas Fuller (1608–1661)


On a gloomy day in late November 2005, the grim-faced Corporate Committee of Lambeth Council met to hear progress in investigating and recovering funds from the largest single suspected fraud that they had suffered in the history of the Council. It wasn’t a happy tale and it didn’t have a happy ending. Many left the meeting that day wondering just how such a sizeable suspected fraud could have gone undetected. Others wondered whether any of the money would ever be recovered. They had all been warned that they couldn’t discuss the details that they had just heard outside of the meeting, for fear of prejudicing the outcome of ongoing disciplinary and criminal investigations.

Lambeth Council had suffered the indignity of an internal and contractor fraud of extraordinary size, the bulk of which was committed in just a few short weeks in March 2005. The main perpetrator and chief architect behind the fraud was the self-styled ‘Alex Watson-Jones’, who worked as an interim Project Manager for the council from February 2004 through to the start of July 2005. In all, Watson-Jones authorised the spending of around £2.8 million on his own company before ...

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