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Welsh Government Minister’s researcher worked simultaneously for a lobbying firm

14 Sep 2023 8 minute read
Matt Greenough. Image via YouTube

Martin Shipton

A former chief special adviser to the Welsh Government worked for a lobbying company at the same time as he was employed by a minister, we can reveal.

Matt Greenough, who was Carwyn Jones’ top aide when he was First Minister, insists there was no conflict of interest because he didn’t work on any public affairs contracts in Wales for the lobbying company, Cathod Du. The firm was founded by Mr Greenough’s close friend Luke Holland, a former Welsh Labour director of communications and husband of Welsh Labour’s former general secretary Louise Magee. Mr Greenough’s profile suddenly disappeared from Cathod Du’s website after we asked him about work he had done for the company.

Nation.Cymru was tipped off that Mr Greenough’s name was on the list of staff employed by Senedd Members, with their salaries paid out of public funds. He was described on the list as a senior researcher employed by Torfaen MS Lynne Neagle, who since May 2021 has been the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing. Mr Greenough was also referred to on the list as a homeworker.

The senior Senedd insider who tipped us off said: “More than a few eyebrows have been raised about the news that Matt Greenough was working for Lynne Neagle – a fact that wasn’t widely known. He didn’t mention he was working for Lynne on the website of his own communications company, Words Matter. Nor was it mentioned in his biography on the website of Cathod Du, where he was described as an associate consultant.

“Since leaving the Welsh Government Matt has marketed himself as a lobbying and communications expert. It is inappropriate that he has worked for a government minister at the same time as working for a lobbying company. This seems clearly to be a conflict of interest and questions will inevitably be asked about the Deputy Minister’s judgement in employing someone who also sells political advice and information.”

Questions

We sent Ms Neagle a series of questions about her employment of Mr Greenough, who in 2009 worked with Mr Holland on the unsuccessful Welsh Labour leadership campaign of her husband Huw Lewis, the then Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney:

* Can you describe the recruitment process that led to the hiring of Matt Greenough as a senior researcher?

* Were Senedd hiring protocols followed when Matt Greenough was appointed?

* Were there other candidates considered for the senior researcher role that Matt Greenough ultimately filled?

* Was the job opening for Matt Greenough’s position publicly advertised?

* Given Matt Greenough’s known prior affiliations with you and your office, how did you ensure a fair hiring process?

* Was Matt Greenough involved in any other work commitments at the time of his appointment?

* What checks were undertaken to ensure there were no conflicts of interest with Matt Greenough’s other work commitments?

* Were there any specific processes or guidelines put in place to manage potential conflicts of interest involving Matt Greenough?

* Did Matt Greenough disclose all his other work commitments and financial interests at the time of his appointment?

* What were the specific responsibilities and duties assigned to Matt Greenough?

* Can you provide any evidence of work completed by Matt Greenough during his tenure?

* Were there any performance reviews conducted for Matt Greenough?

* How often was Matt Greenough expected to report to the office?

* Have Senedd officials raised any concerns about Matt Greenough’s work or attendance?

* What was the remuneration package for Matt Greenough?

* Were there any additional benefits or allowances provided to Matt Greenough?

* Can you confirm the current employment status of Matt Greenough? If he has left, when did this occur and under what circumstances? If he is still employed, what is the nature of his current role and responsibilities?

* Was there a formal process for the termination or continuation of Matt Greenough’s employment?

* Why has there been a lack of transparency regarding Matt Greenough’s employment?

* Are there any internal or external audits planned to investigate Matt Greenough’s employment?

* What steps are you taking to ensure future transparency and accountability in employment practices within your office?

Statement

Instead of responding to the questions, Ms Neagle sent us a short statement which said: “Matt Greenough was appointed on a part-time basis as a senior researcher between March 26 2019 and July 9 2019 and between August 19 2019 and February 14 2023. The appointments were made in accordance with Senedd guidance. Matt is an experienced and well-regarded professional and it was a pleasure to work with him.”

We then put a series of questions to Mr Greenough:

* Can you elaborate on how you were initially hired as a senior researcher in March 2019?

* Were you aware of any other candidates being considered for the role?

* Was the job opening publicly advertised or were you directly approached?

* What was the reason for the five-week gap in your employment between July 9 2019 and August 19 2019?

* Were you involved in any other work commitments at the time of your appointment, such as working for a lobbying company?

* What steps did you take to disclose and manage any potential conflicts of interest?

* What were your specific responsibilities and duties as a senior researcher?

* Can you provide examples of work you completed during your tenure?

* Precisely how many hours were you contracted for on a weekly basis throughout your employment period?

* What was your remuneration package as a senior researcher and were you provided with any additional benefits or allowances?

* Can you confirm why and how your employment ended on February 14 2023?

* Was there a formal process for the termination of your employment?

* Are you aware of any internal or external audits that were or are being conducted to investigate your employment?

Mr Greenough initially responded: “The appointment process was handled by my employer – but in short, I responded to a job advert, was selected for interview and was appointed on a part-time basis.

“I always take considerable care to balance the needs of my employers and clients and would always ensure any potential conflicts of interests were properly raised and addressed.”

We pressed him for more specific answers, and he responded as follows:

Q Can you confirm your association with Cathod Du? A I am a former associate of Cathod Du, and have worked on a number of projects with them.

Q Were you advertised as an associate of Cathod Du during your time employed as a senior researcher for Lynne Eagle? A Yes.

Q Were you a member of Public Affairs Cymru during your time with Cathod Du and/or while employed by Lynne Neagle? A No. But neither was I an employee of Cathod Du, and nor did I ever work on any public affairs projects for them in Wales.

Q Why was your profile suddenly removed from Cathod Du’s website? A It was out of date, and prompted by you mentioning other out of date information about me (which came as a surprise), see above.

Q Was this removal initiated by you, Cathod Du, or another party? A Me, see above.

Q Was the removal of your profile from Cathod Du’s website related to the questions I’ve been asking about your employment? A Indirectly, yes, see above. I have also taken steps to update other out of date information.

Q Do you see any conflict of interest in being associated with a lobbying firm like Cathod Du while also being employed in a public office?A No, I did not work on any projects that cut across responsibilities of the Senedd or Welsh Government.

Q Are you aware of any internal or external audits that were or are being conducted to investigate your affiliations and employment? A No.

We pressed Mr Greenough to answer the questions he hadn’t responded to:

* What was the reason for the five-week gap in your employment between July 9 2019 and August 19 2019?

* Can you provide examples of work you completed during your tenure?

* Precisely how many hours were you contracted for on a weekly basis throughout your employment period?

* Can you confirm why and how your employment ended on 14th February 2023?

* Was there a formal process for the termination of your employment?

Mr Greenough replied to our email with a message which said: ”I’ve nothing further to add to the responses already given.”

A spokesperson for the Senedd Commission said: “The Commission has no involvement or oversight of MS support staff work because MSs are the employers and work/performance would be a matter between the MS and their employee.”

Addressing the issue of why Mr Greenough’s name still appeared on the staff list seven months after he ceased being employed by Ms Neagle, a Senedd spokesperson said: “The list is an information resource which sits on the staff intranet. It’s maintained manually, and it appears that some staffing changes have been missed and haven’t been reflected on there.

“The list stands alone – it’s not linked to things like staff’s access to emails or networks or anything associated with the terms of their employment. These cease when a person leaves the role.”


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russell
russell
6 months ago

when Tories are up to this sort of stuff, it’s to enrich themselves. When Labour do it in Wales it’s to maintain their hegemony here

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

The entire SpAd/P.R./Lobbist arena needs to be cleaned up. Indeed the best solution would be to erase the entire mess. Why do SpAds exist when Ministers have senior public servants on the payroll ? Why allow lobbyists access to government ministers and civil servants at all especially when so much of it goes on unrecorded or reported? Just another aspect of the erosion of the democratic process in Wales and wider U.K

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
6 months ago

This is a conflict of interest and it must be declared that any person has an additional job or political interest at the start of any discussion or at least on their public record. I also suggest that anyone standing for a local council role should be non- aligned to a political party. As an example Plaid have their own educational policy which is detrimental to some communities such as Anglesey and the shrinking Gwynedd. Prior to any meeting on local council matters how can such people not be influenced or put under pressure by their own or party political… Read more »

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