Dawnus

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

A story that’s taken up a lot of column inches and air time recently is the collapse of contractors Dawnus; which is sad in so many ways; lost jobs, another blow for my home town, and public money down the Swanee. (Or, in this case, the Tawe.) It’s this final consideration that seems to have exercised the minds of our tribunes and our scribblers.

But the interest has been only superficial.

Here’s a piece from the Wasting Mule that seems satisfied to learn that two million pounds from a ‘Welsh Government’ loan of three and a half million has been returned, with the spokesperson confident that they’d soon see the balance.

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From reading that article you might get the impression that there’s a single company called Dawnus which received just one loan. The truth is rather different, and quite confusing.

MORE THAN JUST A COMPANY

There are no less than 10 companies bearing the Dawnus name (with another dissolved). Then there are other companies also operating out of Unit 7 Dyffryn Court, Riverside Business Park, Swansea Vale, SA7 0AP, not far from Junction 45 of the M4.

The full list of Dawnus companies with dates of their formation is:

  1. Dawnus Construction Holdings Limited (Originally Dawnus Construction Ltd) (07.06.2001)
  2. Dawnus Ltd (21.02.2002)
  3. Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd (Originally Dawnus Developments Ltd) (14.01.2003)
  4. Dawnus International Ltd (Originally Dawnus Plant Ltd) (23.01.2003)
  5. Churchfield Homes Ltd (Originally Dawnus Homes Ltd) (06.01.2004)
  6. Dawnus Developments Ltd (Originally Dawnus Holdings Ltd) (20.10.2004)
  7. Construction Recyclate Management Ltd (Originally Dawnus Northern Ltd) (02.08.2005)
  8. Quantum Geotechnical Ltd (Originally Construction Geotechnical Ltd) (22.09.2011)
  9. Dawnus Holdings Ltd
  10. Dawnus Southern Ltd (08.04.2011)
  11. Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd (1) (20.02.2013 – 09.06.2015)
  12. Dawnus Group Ltd (02.09.2013)
  13. Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd (2) (24.08.2015)
  14. Dawnus Consulting Ltd (18.05.2018)
  15. Dawnus International Group Ltd (22.03.2019)

A number of things struck me when compiling that list. First, the sheer number of companies. Second, the way names seem to switch within the group. Third, Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd, why did it dissolve in June 2015 and resurrect in August, with the same director, Andrew Keay?

Come to that, who is Andrew Keay and why is he using the Dawnus name? All I know at the moment is that he also had his own company, Keay Cost Value Engineering Ltd, and this also went belly-up in July 2015.

Then, last Friday, a new company was formed, Dawnus International Group Limited, with its address given as, ‘c/o Acuity Legal Limited, 3 Assembly Square, Britannia Quay, Cardiff CF10 4PL’.

Acuity Law is well-connected in Cardiff Bay, and also with the higher levels of officialdom in Wales. Which explains why they’re lawyers for Carmarthenshire CEO Mark James. And they’ve done a great job of defending – nay, burnishing! – his reputation. Acuity will in no small part be responsible for the outpouring of communal grief that will accompany James’ retirement in June.

Of course most companies begin life using the address of an accountant or a lawyer before changing to a more permanent address, but I just find it significant that in this case it should be Acuity Law.

Now let us turn to loans made to Dawnus. Yes, there’s more than one.

WHO OWES WHAT, AND TO WHOM?

The newspaper article I reproduced above tells us that the Cardiff Bay management team made a loan of £3.5 million to ‘Dawnus’ of which two million has been repaid. So there shouldn’t be much to worry about. Mmm . . .

Except that . . .

  • Working our way down the list of Dawnus companies in the order seen in the previous section we find two outstanding charges against Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd with ‘the Welsh Ministers’, delivered 28.03.2018, both part-cleared 02.07.2018. (Do these part-cleared charges account for the repaid £2m?)
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Ltd delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd, delivered 06.04.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus International Ltd, delivered 28.08.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Churchfield Homes Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Developments Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Quantum Geotechnical Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Southern Ltd, delivered 28.08.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against the Dawnus Group Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.

So there are at least three charges.

But we need to be careful because when querying similar charges – with the Development Bank for Wales – for a number of companies run by the same individual, and asking why a company based in London had received funding, I was initially given the ‘group’ answer.

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But in the example I was querying there was no group, just many companies run by the same guy, Jimbo Lynch of Cardigan (for it is he!).

And then I checked with Companies House and wondered why alarm bells didn’t ring in Cardiff when this appeared on the document –

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Beachbay is a company that has bought and runs property in London, it should never have received funding from what was then Finance Wales. I’m now waiting for another excuse explanation.

It’s obviously much easier to make the ‘group’ argument with Dawnus, but if so, then which is the parent company? And even if the group explanation holds, there are still at least three outstanding charges; two delivered on 28.03.2018, and one on 06.04.2018 to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd.

Though this last one raises the question of whether the Development Bank for Wales should be funding a company that presumably operates in west Africa.

Newspaper and media reports give the impression there is just one company, yet we know there are many using the Dawnus name. This BBC Wales report only confuses matters further by (at the foot) introducing a company called Dawnus Liberia, which I can’t find anywhere.

Though an internet search for Dawnus Liberia turned up this article which mentions Legsun Building Services. The company is actually called Legsun Ltd, and is based in Cardiff. When I checked the Legsun directors I saw the names Timothy Alun Lowe and Nicholas Charles Down, names I recognised from the Dawnus companies.

In fact, Down was appointed to the boards of 12 companies at the Dawnus address on March 10/12 last year. Some of these companies do not carry the Dawnus name but are presumably part of the group. Companies like Ashridge Construction Ltd, Pond Bridge Management Company Ltd, Dyffryn Court Management Ltd and Medrus Plant Hire Ltd (that began life in 2011 as Port Talbot Tyres). To confuse matters, there is also Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP.

Apart from the LLP all the companies have charges against them – or are covered by the group charge – held by ‘the Welsh Ministers’ and delivered 28.03.2018, just two weeks after Down became a director for most of them.

Let us return to Legsun for a moment, where we found both Lowe and Down serving as directors. The accounts to 31.12.2017 record a loss of £4,147,000 on turnover of £9,298,000, compared with £1,184,000 and £17,496,000 respectively for the previous year.

Yet despite apparently being up Shit Creek, Legsun was able to settle three charges on March 14 with the National Westminster Bank, the very day it was announced that Dawnus was in administration. Did the money come from Dawnus Group Ltd, as is suggested in the extract below from the accounts?

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And if so, was it simply moving money beyond the reach of creditors, or was there something else going on?

Nicholas Charles Down first appears in April 2016 as a director of three companies – Dawnus Southern, Dawnus Construction Holdings and Ashbridge Construction. In November we find him as one of the original designated members of Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP. He joins Dawnus Group Ltd in February 2017, and finally, as we’ve just seen, he becomes director of a whole raft of companies in March 2018, including Legsun.

So who is Nicholas Charles Down? Well, here’s his Linkedin profile which tells us that before joining Dawnus he was managing director of Laing O’Rourke for three and a half years.

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You’ll note that Down’s Linkedin profile says he became a director of ‘Dawnus Construction Ltd’ in October 2015, but that name was not used after October 2013; Companies House tells us he became a director of Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd 15.04.2016.

How do we account for this discrepancy? Was he there ‘undercover’ from October 2015 before becoming a registered director in April 2016? It’s possible, because according to his Linkedin profile he left his previous post at Laing O’Rourke in June 2015.

Though I can’t find Down listed as a director for any Laing O’Rourke company.

Someone else who got involved around the same time was Albert James Barclay, a Scot, who was director of Carillion Construction (West Indies) Ltd from June 2005 until August 18, 2017. That company was wound up in November 2018, a casualty of the more general collapse of the Carillion group.

Barclay has been, since 12.03.2018, a director of Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd and, since 25.08.2017, a designated member of Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP.

ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR?

The reason I decided to write this piece is because someone contacted me with rather disturbing information. As I’ve hinted, Dawnus did a great deal of work in west Africa, principally Sierra Leone.

This work was badly hit by the outbreak of Ebola, which began in January 2014. As a result of which a great deal of heavy machinery was shipped back to Wales and parked up in the Dawnus yard in Clydach.

One source insists that this heavy equipment accounted for a considerable part of the Dawnus group’s assets.

About a week ago someone popped down to the yard and mooched around a bit. It seems there’s a new security firm from Carmarthen on site and so the guard he spoke with couldn’t tell him much. But my mate wandered around, looked through the fence and estimated that the yard had room for a hundred or so sizeable machines, but there were only five there. It was clear that many of the spaces had recently been vacated.

Perhaps the intention always was that this equipment would return to Africa, and that’s what I’m told happened towards the end of last year when almost all the equipment was shipped out again, presumably back to Sierra Leone.

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Which means that at a time when everybody – including suppliers, sub-contractors and ‘Welsh Government’ – knew that Dawnus was in deep, deep trouble, big money assets were leaving the country.

I can’t help but wonder if the numbers given on the part-repayment made by Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd refers to heavy machinery. If so, then the part-repayment might have cleared them to be exported from August or September onwards.

But was Peter being robbed to pay Paul? Or to put it bluntly, could the loan in April – that no one seems to talk about – have funded the part-repayment in July?

This almost certainly links to the one constant in the Dawnus media reports, which say UK work has stopped but ‘overseas operations will continue’, or that only group companies operating in the UK are in the hands of the receivers.

But with a Byzantine structure like the Dawnus group of companies who knows what’s what? Does the ‘Welsh Government’ know which companies are in receivership? For nothing is filed yet with Companies House to say that any Dawnus company is in receivership.

TRYING TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

If Sierra Leone and Ebola were the undoing of Dawnus, then the problems started at the beginning of 2014. But in fairness, Dawnus didn’t just cut and run; no, the company stayed and helped fight the outbreak. And the UK Government also sent help, including military personnel.

Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum, click to enlarge

Let’s put together a little timeline to help us make sense of the events leading up to the Dawnus collapse and subsequent happenings:

  1. Up to 2013 things seem to be going well, at home and in Africa
  2. January 2014, Ebola outbreak begins in Sierra Leone
  3. Heavy equipment is moved from Sierra Leone to Wales
  4. The company’s financial health starts to suffer
  5. Late 2015/early 2016, Nick Down appears
  6. March 2018, the ‘Welsh Ministers’ loan Dawnus £3m
  7. April 2018, there is a further loan specific to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd
  8. From August/September 2018 Dawnus becomes noticeably slower in paying suppliers and sub-contractors
  9. From September 2018, it is reported that heavy equipment is leaving Swansea for Sierra Leone.
  10. March 13/14 2019, it is announced that Dawnus is in the hands of receivers
  11. March 14, 2019, loss-making Legsun satisfies three charges
  12. March 22, Dawnus International Group Ltd registered with Companies House

So what does that tell us? To begin with, it doesn’t tell us how or why – or at whose request? – Nicholas Charles Down got involved with Dawnus. One source is adamant that everything started to go pear-shaped with his arrival. Though I suspect that the writing was on the wall and Down was brought it to sort things out.

Turning to the ‘Welsh Ministers’. It’s obvious that their loan (or loans) is linked with Down taking control of so many companies in March 2018. It’s equally clear that this was never going to be enough to save the Dawnus group, it was just enough money to keep it limping along for a while.

Long enough for Dawnus to be restructured and the heavy equipment moved back to Africa. Though the ‘Welsh Government’ must have been aware of this, for it almost certainly explains the further loan, in April 2018, to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd. Should this loan have ever been made?

Among the known unknowns is new company Dawnus International Group Ltd, for the directors are names previously associated with the Dawnus group. So is the new company challenging the new regime?

Whatever street-fighting may still be going on in the ruins of Dawnus this whole business reflects very badly on the ‘Welsh Government’. For Dawnus was a major Welsh company and serious investment might have saved the group, but the miserably inadequate contribution made only delayed the inevitable. And the ‘Welsh Government’ knew that when it made the loans.

When I think of the money showered on every crook and chancer who crosses the border with a half-baked idea scrawled on the back of a fag packet it makes me angry to see that nothing was done to save a major Welsh company already in business, with good contracts, providing work for hundreds of our people.

Instead, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ appears to have encouraged, facilitated, and perhaps funded, the demise of Dawnus. The only question remaining is, was this done through malice or incompetence?

At the end of the day, for all those who’ve suffered, does it really matter?

♦ end ♦

25 thoughts on “Dawnus

  1. Wynne

    What an incredible story Jac. I hope Welsh Government are tuning in to your blog and have a few answers. I also note your reference to Jimbo Lynch of Cardigan. I have circulated a link to your blog to those locally with an interest in his activities. You are exposing shysters in Wales at the rate of one per week [52 per annum]. Now we need the regulators to catch up and ask a few more questions. They should not have to rely on you to do everything.

    1. Thank you, Wynne. I think the way around this – in the interests of economy and time-saving – is to give me the power to try and punish these buggers.

      1. Dafis

        I can volunteer to help out with any kind of summary justice – got the kit for tarring and feathering, new drill bits for ….. and the occasional kneecapping ! God, I can feel the energy returning already !

  2. Stan

    The more I see about the Welsh Govt the more angry I get. Seeing if a group structure exists is straightforward. Looking if you are investing in companies where assets and money can be repatriated can be done with ease. Working out how many days your investment funds is pretty basic

    and assertaining the best assets to charge is bread and butter stuff. Wales dont seem to be at the level of a basic o’level. They are complete fools that shouldnt be in charge of a kids piggy bank. Yet another waste of our money.

    1. I know the feeling, Stan. “We’re the ‘Welsh Government’, the funder that likes to say Yes – to any old fucking crook!”

  3. Dafis

    Shame about Dawnus as it was ticking along nicely, good growth profile doing the sort of work they were good at. I knew that cash flow was damaged at time of the West Africa crisis and I suspect they incurred a lot of unforeseen unrecoverable costs at that time. I think that many of the original founders have moved on, and it would be interesting to see what kind of salaries and benefits their successors were pulling out despite a downturn in performance. Also is there a noticeable upturn in costs such as consultancy – usually inflated invoices from the well known major firms of accountants and others notable for charging big bucks for doing not a lot. All these things can quickly subvert a business’ attempts to overcome its trading problems rather than help.

    1. As you say, Dawnus had cash-flow problems as a result of unforeseeable events in Africa. So help was needed in the form of substantial cash injections in the form of loans, but the ‘Welsh Government’ only provided burial costs.

      1. Dafis

        Welsh Government’s normal procedures operate to the advantage of big accountancy and consultancy practices. They get work shovelled at them on investment appraisal ( yes! those things get appraised, would you believe it) and any “progress” reviews. As I understand it most if not all this useless activity is charged to the business concerned. Nice little earner for trotting out templated reports with odd bits amended, deleted, inserted, cut and paste ! and as much use as chocolate teapots.

  4. Lesley Evans

    Jimbo is still busy, now applying for a licence for his little place ‘The Boy Ashore’ on Aberporth beach. He wants to expand his sandwich bar to sell alcohol and play music from 11am to the small hours. He’s already had a run in with the locals because he tried to corral an area of the beach for his kayaks.
    He’s going to be very busy because he’s also just had permission to develop the site on the quay by the Grosvenor Hotel in Cardigan. There was a big story on the front of the Tivyside paper last week.

    1. He seems to be on a roll. But then, when you have an unlimited source of funding . . . even for your properties in London!

  5. Big Gee

    As a side serving, but nothing to do with your investigating work on Dawnus Jac.

    When this news of Dawnus’ downfall hit the Anglo Establishment media news mill in Cymru – and it’s not just the British Bullshit Corporation, all the reporters referred to Dawnus in news clips as Dawn – US (as pronounced in English).

    This really pisses me off. Dawnus means ‘skilled’ or ‘gifted’ in Welsh. What the hell does ‘Dawn – US’ mean? A glaring example of the ignorance and lack of basic knowledge of these twerps. Not least their dismissive attitude towards our language. Annoying does not cover it!

    Anyway, back to your good works Jac . . . . I just wanted to get that off my chest.

    1. Dafis

      Correct Gee – at least one possibly more of the founders was at least a passable Welsh speaker and the name was specifically picked to communicate Capability/Skill. For years I’ve heard the name bastardized & butchered by fuckin’ ignorant Anglos who get training to pronounce far more complex E European or Asian names and go to great lengths to insist on correct enunciation yet fail abysmally to get Dawnus and other Welsh names right. It’s little things like this that serve to remind us what a shower of wankers they are and how feeble we are to tolerate it.

      1. Anonymous

        Don’t get me started on Anglo mispronunciation of Welsh names. Today I heard Torffen (emphasis on the first syllable) for Torfaen. My mum gets livid every time it happens. The point is, it’s not important to them.

        The early-morning DJ on Radio Cymru got his own back recently by broadcasting his collection of mispronunciations of Pontcysyllte.

  6. Brychan

    I don’t buy into this theory of shipping heavy machinery to and from Africa. It doesn’t make sense. On reading your blog post, I had a chat with someone who had some experience on mines, railways, and other such projects in Africa. I called in a Grand Slam wager.

    There are Chinese plant leasing firms crawling all over Africa, effectively dumping such machinery at cost price into Africa to afford influence/leverage currency. Not only would such machinery be cheaper at purchase price in FOB from China, but on-site leasing of it would be advantageous as it provides for local maintenance (tyres, hydraulic lines, bucket picks, clutches are gearboxes) as part of the contract.

    Shipping back and forth JCBs and low loaders is commercial non-starter.

    The only companies (other than the Chinese) that do ship the standard heavy plant in and out of Africa are those which have defence related contracts and have to adhere to the United States trade embargo. The only other exceptions are high-tech stuff like French space rockets, or oil related stuff for Nigeria to avoid the bribery exposures.

    I therefore question what kind of projects that Dawnus was up to in Sierra Leone, and whether the UK government provided guarantees as part of defence procurement. I was also struck by the Finance Wales statement that they are so sure of getting back the last of the debt back from quite a complex insolvent operation, across different legal jurisdictions. Who arranged it? Whitehall giving orders to Cardiff on what enterprises to bankroll?

    It’s a bigger picture than the BBC or Wasting Mule are suggesting. Firms like this don’t go bust over a length of tarmac on the Kingsway.

    1. As I was writing it, and thinking of recent events in west Africa, I too was wondering about UK government involvement, but I had nothing to go on, not even a whisper.

      Though I agree that shipping heavy plant to Sierra Leone may not look sensible, but I was told, by someone close to Dawnus, “However this [the loan(s)] was a mistake as it only kept them going to rack up more debt and buy the company more time, as in September the once again could not pay suppliers. At this time they apparently won a new contract in Africa and started moving the big equipment back over there, this equipment I would say was the big chunk of the £50m assets the company owned and now the assets are out of the country and realistically not recoverable.”

      1. Though I suppose the disappearance of the heavy machinery could be simple asset stripping. There’s a lot of it about. It’s become something of a growth industry under ‘Welsh’ Labour.

        1. Brychan

          There is no ‘second hand value’ in such machinery, other than scrap. Owned assets such as these only has value as capacity utilisation. They can only be used for the purpose they were designed for. You try to keep the machine running 24/7 (earning money) until it dies. Unlike a luxury car exported (by theft) to West Africa, which you can bodge-mended, and has further use. For example, you can sell a four shovel cement mixer to a farmer, a used 20 tonne one, even at the same price, it’s a burden. Something strange about this. Was the shipment was an off-book bribe settlement ‘gift’ to persons unknown with the advantage, as has been suggested, to move them off-shore to avoid creditors?

  7. Eos Pengwern

    Your comment that “It’s equally clear that this was never going to be enough to save the Dawnus group, it was just enough money to keep it limping along for a while” rings very true.

    For the best part of ten years I ran a start-up technology company in Wrexham, into which I’d put £200,000 of my own cash and got it to the point of having a prototype product and letters of support from several blue-chip potential customers. After having been refused investment by numerous Oxford & Cambridge investment funds – some of whom told me they’d have been likely to fund me if I’d been based in Oxford or Cambridge – I ended up accepting funding from Finance Wales (as they were then). I was warned at the time, by another of their victims, that “they’ll give you enough funding to keep the lights on but not enough to actually accomplish anything” and that was exactly my experience over the next several years.

    We limped along, living hand-to-mouth and having to spend fortunes on expensive consultants (many of them foisted on us by Finance Wales) because we couldn’t secure enough funding to take on staff of our own. Very little of the money we received was actually spent on developing the technology because the overheads imposed on us were so high. Eventually, following a change-of-personnel at Finance Wales, they pulled the plug on us and we’d have gone under were it not for the fact that other investors saw the underlying value of the technology and rescued the company by spinning us into Swansea University, from where we’re still working on engineering our product (with me continuing as sole Director of the company while having a separate full-time day-job).

    Yet the ‘Welsh Government’ continues to neglect home-grown Welsh business whilst throwing gobs of money at all sorts of half-baked shysters who flow in from over the border.

    1. Brychan

      There appears to be a pattern emerging on investment policy of Finance Wales. More keen to prop up the London banks rather than genuinely invest in innovation.

      When Carillion sank the first action of the UK government was to protect it’s ongoing major projects, usually joint ventures, stuff like new hospitals and also to protect the banks and venture capital funds from debt default. They had loads of used plant and machinery, the railway stuff they tried to offload to Balfour Beatty, which was only part successful. HS2 and all that. The involvement of Albert James Barclay is therefore interesting. Was Finance Wales instructed to act on behalf of the UK government to shift Carillion bad debt to Wales and Dawnus used as a sacrificial lamb?

      Every site has a joke about the cab seat that gives you crabs, but I’ve never heard of JCB catching ebola.

  8. Dafis

    Yet another tale of money spent ( invested ! ) on a fantasy project.

    https://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/welsh-government-leases-out-controversial-16042289

    Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Lord Elis-Thomas said: ” There is no doubt that our proactive, industry friendly approach is paying dividends in bringing high calibre international productions to Wales and growing a booming creative sector.
    “This project represents a significant opportunity to secure a long term rental agreement for Pinewood, anchoring two significant productions to Wales and enhancing the studio asset.”

    This man’s capacity for self delusion knows no limits, or does he think he can get away will kidding us ? The fanfare surrounding Pinewood’s arrival was in sharp contrast to their departure from the scene. Now we get yet another “investment” into that building how long will this one last before it goes sour ?

      1. Neil Singleton

        The fishfeed/acquaculture scam was encouraged and promoted by a certain Regional Director of the WDA, who (excuse pun) fell hook, line and sinker for Tony Smith’s fraud. This Regional Director continually dismissed any concerns raised within the WDA office, and declined to undertake any due diligence on the project. This individual was also able to influence BP Chemicals to allow Smith to have free use of various ponds on the Baglan Energy Park in which to grow his (imaginary) ragworms. The RD concerned was so notorious for saying “yes” to any application for funding, no matter how ludicrous the proposal, that following his departure, punters were still coming forward to claim monies which had been promised to them. These “undertakings” became known in the WDA Office as “MKP’s” or MK’s promises.

  9. Dafis

    That’s a cracker ! I don’t know how good the stuff was as fish food but as bait for idiot civil servants and their political masters it is possibly unrivalled. These guys may have been crims but those idiots in Wales Government were criminally negligent. Did they do any investment appraisals prior to initial tranche, did they do any kind of monitoring and audit visits ? Not a fuckin’ tap, lazy bastards. Someone in that department needs sacking and if found to have colluded should be lining up in the queue for porridge soon. But don’t hold your breath on that one.

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