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Senior officer suspended amid audit of Medway Commercial Group finances

A senior member of staff has been suspended as auditors probe Medway Council's trading arm.

The local authority confirmed the development this morning amid concerns regarding the financial affairs of Medway Commerical Group (MCG).

Last week it was revealed an internal audit had been ordered by council chiefs after worries were raised over the firm's handling of the Towns' CCTV network.

Medway Commerical Group is based at the Innovation Park in Chatham (7226052)
Medway Commerical Group is based at the Innovation Park in Chatham (7226052)

This has been followed by speculation several MCG workers had been suspended and the police called in.

In a statement Medway Council said: “The audit and review of MCG being led by Cllr Howard Doe is currently under way and we cannot comment on the matters under investigation at this stage.

"One senior member of staff at MCG is currently suspended from duties while the investigation takes place, which is very normal in such situations, and a senior officer from Medway Council is managing MCG during this interim period to ensure that business runs smoothly.

"No other members of staff have been placed on leave.”

Meanwhile, Kent Police says it has no record of being called regarding MCG.

The senior officer is being assisted by Cllr Doe, who took over as MCG chairman from Cllr Andrew Mackness last month, and the council's assistant director of transformation, Carrie McKenzie.

Cllr Howard Doe(6913254)
Cllr Howard Doe(6913254)

Last week, Cllr Doe explained the reason for the investigation.

He said: “Medway Council and MCG have jointly commissioned an internal audit and full review of operations.

“The review and audit are being carried out by Medway Council and are looking at how MCG operates as well as seeking to draw on best practice from the industry.

“Following concerns over the delivery of CCTV services last autumn, Medway Council took action to start a review of all the services provided by MCG for all its customers."

Further to this, the KM Group understands worries regarding MCG's performance were discussed by leading members of the council's ruling Conservative group back in November.

Speaking last Tuesday, council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett said any accusations of illegality "would surprise and disappoint" him, suggesting any discovered problems could be down to matters of competence rather than criminal acts and said outside experts would be brought in to assist the audit if needed.

Medway Labour councillor Vince Maple (5038927)
Medway Labour councillor Vince Maple (5038927)

In December, he explained the reasons why MCG was established and the important work it was doing on behalf of taxpayers.

On Friday, the opposition Labour group's leader, Cllr Vince Maple, called for independent auditors to be brought in to lead the probe.

MCG was founded in 2016 and runs services for different organisations including Medway, Swale, Gravesham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells councils, as well as the NHS.

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