(The Times, UK) – Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Commonwealth secretary-general, oversaw “wholly inappropriate” public attacks on a senior aide she blamed for leaks about her behaviour and spending, a tribunal has said.
The former Labour attorney-general was criticised by a panel, which ruled that a former senior civil servant at the Commonwealth Secretariat was unlawfully forced out of his job.
Ram Venuprasad, 45, is entitled to damages that could be in the tens of thousands of pounds after Lady Scotland was found to have unfairly disciplined him over the leaks, which he has always denied responsibility for.
Mr Venuprasad’s lawyers said that he had been “marked out” by Lady Scotland after he raised concerns over her decision to spend £50,000 on a garden party shortly after she had taken office.
The disciplinary processes used against him were “seriously flawed”, the tribunal found.
Lady Scotland, 62, has been criticised since she took the top job at the Commonwealth for her spending on decorating the organisation’s headquarters in St James’s, central London.
The ruling from a specially convened tribunal held at the headquarters, in Marlborough House, came hours after the Commonwealth heads of government meeting concluded last week.
Mr Venuprasad, who joined the secretariat in 2001, was the deputy head of office under Lady Scotland.
The tribunal heard that relations between the two deteriorated quickly after his appointment in April 2016.
Mr Venuprasad told the tribunal that he advised Lady Scotland not to appoint several consultants, including Lord Patel of Bradford. Last year, Lady Scotland was accused of cronyism after awarding, Lord Patel, her friend, a £90,000 contract to conduct a three-month review of the secretariat’s staff efficiency.
Mr Venuprasad also told the tribunal that he had expressed concern about the budget for a proposed garden party and the fact that it was scheduled to be held during Ramadan.
Likewise, he said he told Lady Scotland that he had concerns about what he perceived as inappropriate and “discourteous treatment” of a prime minister of a Commonwealth country during a visit to the secretariat and about the arrangements made for high commissioners during a visit by the Queen to Marlborough House two years ago.
The tribunal heard that Lady Scotland had been “angered” by Mr Venuprasad raising his concerns.
Mr Venuprasad’s legal team told the tribunal that when media reports highlighted Lady Scotland’s alleged “extravagant and overzealous spending”, the civil servant was blamed for the leak and suffered a campaign of “intimidation and hostility”, which he said was “designed to damage his reputation and damage him psychologically”.