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Commonwealth crisis , Issue 1516
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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:

CASH IN THE ANTIC…
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PANDEMIC PANIC
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.

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

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

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

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

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