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Council criminality claims

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By Newsdesk
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Council criminality claims

SHOCKWAVES rippled through a council meeting after a claim was made of possible criminality within the local authority.

It happened last Thursday as councillors were discussing the findings of the investigation into the 4th Generation Trunk Road Maintenance Management Contract, in which £4.2 million was ‘lost’.

Investigators had found no evidence of fraud or corruption within the DG First department and had instead concluded there was an “overall failure in standards” in the handling of the roads contract.

But Annandale South Councillor Ian Carruthers shocked fellow elected members when he said he had just received information that could prove otherwise.

Mr Carruthers said: “As recently

as this morning I have had further information that would lead me to believe there has not been the fullest of investigations. There’s still stones to be overturned, uncovered. There’s still information there that could be brought to light and potentially change the recommendations here.”

In his role as chairman of the council’s audit, risk and scrutiny committee, he plans to take the matter forward with officials and added: “I was wanting to draw a line under this today but I do not know if I can.

“There are signs there’s been criminal activity within the council. There’s signs of further information that should have been actually been uncovered and would make a difference to this.”

Council leader Elaine Murray urged him to go to the police with any evidence. Referring to the report, she said: “It’s been incompetence rather than fraud – but that does not take away from the fact £4.2m was spent that otherwise could have been spent on our local roads, which cannot be recouped.”

Agreeing, all the elected members expressed their disappointment at the loss.

Annandale North’s Stephen Thompson said: “We have heard that rather than finding corruption there was chaos.”

Depute leader Rob Davidson said: “Nobody is happy with this, nobody is content with this. Fundamentally it ought not to have happened in the first place.

“I certainly wish to see a council in which there’s transparency and where mistakes can be easily and promptly rectified at the earliest opportunity and where our processes, which are sound, are actively followed.”

Cllr David James called for more accountability on the matter, while Cllr Malcolm Johnstone asked: “At what point does poor record keeping or perhaps deliberately destroying records become deliberate?

“People need to be confident that their council is being run competently. We have had chaos, someone needs to be taken to task for those failings.”

And former leader, Cllr Tommy Sloan described it as ‘incompetence on a large scale’, adding: “It says there’s been no fraud or corruption identified, that does not mean to say there’s been no wrongdoing.

“How do we possible close a book on such a large loss of money? Was there any wrongdoing? Who was responsible for the loss? It was either officers or elected members but someone has to carry the can.”

Despite Mr Carruthers’ bombshell revelation, the committee agreed that the current investigation into the 4G Contract is now complete- but that Cllr Carruthers will continue to look at the new information.

Meanwhile, it was also noted that the investigation has been “a catalyst for significant changes to the way the council operates” and a new working group will be set up to ensure the cultural changes that have resulted do remain in place, along with high standards of governance, openness and transparency, effective member/officer working and public accountability across the authority.

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