FRAUDSTERS getting away with their scams by using sheer confidence, bluster and a little specialist knowledge is not new. Normally the victim is a vulnerable person rather than one of the largest public authorities in England.
The extent to which Sheffield City Council was duped by Mike Buckley defies belief – senior managers and department heads were so in “awe” of the scientist that they signed off laughable claims for equipment and funds that were “divorced from reality”.
The taxpayers in South Yorkshire – who have been left to pick up the bill for this colossal management failure – will now question how such a brazen fraud went undetected.
Political leaders must have squirmed with embarrassment when they read the Newton Report, which details how Buckley, the ex-trading standards boss, used “unrefined methods” as he ran up debts of more than £7m by indulging in specialised commercial work rather than the more mundane tasks that would have protected local residents from scams.
The inquiry, another example of public sector mismanagement, must lead to root and branch reform of how this Trading Standards department is run.
It does not end here. The powers-that-be now need to consider whether Buckley’s superiors should face disciplinary action for failing up to stand up to his overpowering personality, and allowing his financial recklessness to go unchecked.
They also need to publish, in full, the report into this scandal. The details are only now in the public domain after a copy was leaked to the Yorkshire Post.
And, as well as offering a full apology, Sheffield City Council – Buckley’s ultimate managers – needs to explain how it intends to prevent public funds being misused in the future.