Camden News - by SIMON WROE Published: 4 December 2008
Ermek Sultanov protesting last week
New board members for Novas
Government watchdog imposes new blood to ‘enhance’ embattled charity
GOVERNMENT watchdog the Housing Corporation has imposed three new board members on the embattled social charity behind Camden’s historic Arlington House hostel.
With auditors still investigating “aspects of the financial management” of the Novas Scarman Group (NSG) at their Parkway offices and new allegations emerging, the corporation said it had decided to make the statutory appointments “to enhance the skills and expertise available to the board”.
Two members of the board – Keith Bird and Camden Town councillor Pat Callaghan – quit in August over Novas Scarman’s decision to sell off the Arlington House hostel.
Peter Molyneux, chairman of the Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust, Tina Barnard, chief executive of the Watford Community Housing Trust, and David Roberts-Jones, chairman of the Hexagon Housing Association will take their place.
It is hoped the appointees, who boast a breadth of experience in healthcare, finance, housing and “conflict resolution” in the public and private sectors, could turn around the fortunes of the social justice charity.
Critics have observed the absence of an arts expert after suggestions that NSG has strayed from its housing remit by opening an art gallery in Parkway and Liverpool.
The board revisions will give little succour to Ermek Sultanov, however, who was fired from the organisation in July for, he claims, speaking out about the poor treatment of vulnerable people at the charity’s Arlington Road care home – claims Novas Scarman reject.
Mr Sultanov, a 35-year-old trainee support worker, made his concerns public with a one-man protest outside the charity’s office last week. “Novas has to solve its problems and the public must know,” he said.
Cllr Callaghan said she was “very concerned” by the allegations, adding: “Is this another case of a whistleblower taking the fall for staff who might be negligent?”
A Novas Scarman spokeswoman said all Mr Sultanov’s complaints had been investigated and not upheld, and his traineeship was terminated “due to repeated breaches to [their] code of conduct”.
She added that Mr Sultanov was asked to leave his NSG hostel for his “failure to engage with the service”.
The case is expected to go before employment judges early in the new year.
Mr Sultanov’s allegations are the latest in a string of controversies encircling Novas Scarman.
In November the Communities and Local Government department confirmed it had withdrawn £4.2million of a £17m government grant in 2006 for the redevelopment of Arlington House “due to the projects failure to obtain planning permission in time”.
Camden housing bosses, who hold the purse strings on behalf of the government for the remaining grant money, declared they were “closely monitoring the performance and quality” of the group’s services – but added that the investigation was “a matter for the regulator”.