Mayor's mentoring programme comes under scrutiny

Boris Johnson made it clear when he launched his Time for Action programme in 2008 he wanted to get to grips with escalating youth violence.

The mayor's mentoring programme was at the heart of this, but it has come under the spotlight as the role of the man at the centre of delivering the mayor's vision is being called into question.

Former deputy mayor Ray Lewis stepped down as Mr Johnson's number two in 2008 amid claims of financial irregularities.

But last year he was given a new role by the mayor focused on creating role models in the black community.

Project Titan has proved popular with volunteers with more than 2,100 signing up to provide support and guidance to vulnerable young Londoners.

Many of these volunteers have come on board since the University of East London (UEL) was awarded a grant of nearly £1.4m to run the mentoring programme in June.

So far, the mentoring programme has paired just 21 mentors and mentees. The objective had been to link 1,000 black youngsters with 1,000 black men.

'Capital Men'

Back in March 2010 Mr Lewis launched his own private mentoring project called Capital Men through his charity, Eastside Young Leaders Academy. The project was delivered by a colleague Dr Ian Joseph.

Shortly afterwards in September 2010 Mr Lewis was appointed as the mayor's mentoring champion and was told it would be "inappropriate for him to play any part in any bid from this organisation".

However, BBC London learned that the successful University of East London bid, now also renamed the Capital Men project, was drafted by the same Dr Ian Joseph of Eastside who since January 2011 has been employed as a research fellow at the university.

There is no question that Dr Joseph has done anything wrong, but this link with Mr Lewis does not appear in any City Hall register of interests.

A spokesperson for the mayor told BBC London that they "were not aware that Ian Joseph drafted the bid".

The spokesperson added that Mr Lewis provided assurances to the mayor's previous chief of staff, Sir Simon Milton - who died in April - and the GLA's head of paid services, that he had "no conflicts of interest in relation to the mentoring programme bidding process".

The decision-panel decided that the UEL should get the grant despite scoring significantly lower than the bid which was deemed to have the best proposal.

That bid, which involved a company called Freeman Oliver and the charity Barnardos, was rejected in favour of UEL's because the university was deemed more financially robust.

And now Mr Lewis's letter of appointment as the mayor's mentoring champion, seen by BBC London, reveals that he was told more than a year ago he would have "no decision-making or budgetary responsibility".

The London Assembly is now asking if it was appropriate for him to be on the decision-panel responsible for choosing the best bid in the first place.

They are proposing to refer the matter to the district auditor.

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