Empire games
Commonwealth crisis , Issue 1516
HAPPIER TIMES: Labour peers Baroness Scotland and chum Lord Patel enjoying the cricket at Lord’s
COMMONWEALTH governments are at last turning against secretary-general Baroness Scotland, the former Labour minister and sometime libel reader for Lord Gnome.

Having blocked an automatic extension to her four-year term of office – which will now be voted on at a Commonwealth leaders’ meeting in June – several have recently withheld or cut their funding for her London HQ, aka the Secretariat. The Foreign Office won’t pay the UK’s £4.7m voluntary contribution until she reforms its “financial procedures”.

The only mystery is why the crisis has taken so long to blow up. The immediate cause was a leaked report by external auditor KPMG criticising the payment of lavish consultancy fees to Lord Patel, a friend and fellow Labour peer: £90,000 for a three-month “review” of the Secretariat followed by £162,000 for another six months. Neither contract was put out to tender. But the baroness recruited Patel almost four years ago, within days of taking office in April 2016, and even before that there were reasons to worry.

Baroness Scotland may not have the, er, Common touch, but she knows about Wealth. In July 2015, four months before her election, Eye 1397 revealed that her campaign for the job was being financed by the Zurich-based tycoon Ron Wahid, chairman of the secretive Arcanum Global. At the same time, Wahid also hired Scotland as a “senior adviser” to Arcanum – which sold “bespoke and tailored strategic intelligence products” to clients such as Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Mayfair mansion
If that wasn’t enough to raise eyebrows, it then emerged that in the run-up to the Commonwealth vote she had wooed the leaders of five Caribbean nations with “knighthoods” from an obscure Catholic order run by her friend Anthony Bailey, a PR fixer known to Eye readers as the Preening Puffball. On a trip to Dominica with Scotland in November 2014, for instance, Bailey awarded a “Constantinian knighthood” to the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit; by happy coincidence, six months later Skerrit nominated Patricia Scotland for the Commonwealth top job.

Once she moved into the secretary-general’s Mayfair mansion, out came the chequebook. There was a £338,000 refurbishment of her grace-and-favour mansion, a £50,000 garden party, and of course the contracts for Lord Patel’s company KYA Global Ltd. The job of organising a climate-change event in London went to her friends Rola Khoury and Antonio Bartesaghi – based at Lake Como, Italy, not hitherto thought to be in the Commonwealth.

No website or phone number
Lady Scotland’s lawyers, the inevitable and ineffable Carter-Fuck, still insist that hiring her chum Patel without inviting competitive bids was wholly justified because “the Secretariat was in a very poor financial position and was in dire need of reform… urgently”. To “bring about that change in haste”, they say, it was necessary to bypass the usual procurement procedure and appoint a firm with a “proven track record in change management consultancy”.

KYA Global, run by Patel and his wife from their home in Bradford, actually had assets of £971 and debts of £48,762 at the time – with no website or phone number, and no sign that it had any employees or much of a reputation. What urgent insights did Patel provide in return for all that Commonwealth loot? No one can say. Even the Secretariat’s own audit committee has been unable to obtain a copy of his report.

More top stories in the latest issue:

The Tory assault on BBC staff cashing in on their fame shines a light on another taxpayer-funded public servant with vast outside earnings: er, one B. Johnson.

With the media in full-on killer-virus mode over Covid-19, the Eye’s MD advises readers to get a grip and just wash their hands properly.

New attorney-general Suella Braverman, who will lead any government attempt to reform the judiciary, seems to have overstated her stellar legal career.

Health secretary Matt Hancock suffers memory loss on a visit to Hillingdon hospital where he tweets about the ‘new hospital we are building’.

Dr Grim on Egypt’s political prisoners who, says the UN, are being judicially killed through deliberate medical neglect.

Amnesty International boycotts ‘civil engagement’ meetings in repressive Saudi Arabia – but not so some leading international trade unionists.

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Next issue on sale: 3rd March 2020
Private Eye Issue 1516
In This Issue
‘It’s what Caroline would have wanted’ – ITV keeps Love Island on air after consulting widely with its accountants… Latest Royal Couple to split as Lion and Unicorn go separate ways… Gay man comes out as presenter on morning TV… China says coronavirus source is now dead so can no longer infect anyone with dangerous facts… Chinese emperor offers to help rebuild Rome in a day… Shock as supervillain Dominic Evil appoints evil Mini-Me as his special adviser… John Bercow’s Diary, as told to Craig Brown

Bar humbug!
Brave Suella’s rise to the top

Diamond geezer
Tory treasurer’s associate in court

HS2 Special
Trebles all round for the suits

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3rd March 2020
Private Eye Issue 1515