Student experience

With so little known about the companies behind the wireless internet scheme that Swindon Borough Council has put almost £½M of our money into, I’ve been doing a little investigation into the companies and the people running them. This isn’t going to be the most thrilling read, but there’s some information here that’s relevant to understanding the wisdom — or lack thereof — in spending public money on this wi-fi adventure.

Avidity Consulting Limited (registered no. 06990825) and Digital City (UK) Limited (registered no. 06990831) were both incorporated 14 August 2009 as DM 55 Limited and DM 56 Limited respectively, apparently as ‘off the shelf’ companies. Both changed to their current names on 18 September 2009 and one John Richard Hunt became a director on 21 September 2009 and 22 September 2009 respectively. Hitesh Kumar Patel became a director of Digital City (UK) Ltd on 26 September 2009. You may recognise that last named person as one of the authors of the Cabinet Member Briefing Note dated 12 October 2009 that recommended that Swindon Borough Council provide a loan of £450k to the company. There’s little to add about the facts of Mr Hunt’s record that he hasn’t said in public himself, though there are a few that seem to have slipped his memory.

The history of aQovia UK Limited (registered no. 06846037) is a little harder to follow. According to the company’s website it was founded in January 2008, which is the month after their internet address was registered. Companies House shows the company as having been incorporated on 13 March 2009 and that it has yet to file accounts. The company states that its managing director and founder is Muhammad Malik. Doug Berman is described as ‘a key member of the aQovia advisory committee’ though it seems less key to him as aQovia is without mention on his own recently updated profile. He appears to have experience of the wireless networking industry going back to 2002.

Mr Mustafa Arif became a director of aQovia UK Ltd on 16 September 2009 and has, apparently, also been a director of Digital City (UK) Ltd since September 2009. According to aQovia’s website he ‘has ten years experience of the telecoms and IT industries.’ However, for much of the last ten years — 1999 to 2003 and 2005 to 2007 — Mr Arif was a student. Whilst his studies were in topics (Information Systems Engineering, and Spacecraft Technology & Satellite Communications) of some relevance to his current role, time as a student is probably not what most people have in mind as ‘experience’ when reading the profile of a director. In the intervening two years Mr Arif was president of Imperial College students union or, as Mr Arif modestly describes it, ‘effective CEO of a £6 m+ turnover organisation.’ It seems that until 2007 Mr Arif’s ‘experience of the telecoms and IT industries’ was limited to his studies and a string of vacation jobs.

It is in such… err… experienced hands that almost £½M of Swindon tax-payers money has been entrusted.