Time to make findings of council corruption investigation available to the public

NLC has been investigating corruption claims for ten months.
NLC has been investigating corruption claims for ten months.

SNP councillors are demanding to see the findings of a corruption investigation into council contracts.

An investigation into seven North Lanarkshire Council contracts was launched last April.

In September a report produced by internal council auditors revealed a £20m ‘overspend’, with one contractor paid £9m on a job valued at £1.5m.

Three senior council managers were subsequently suspended, two of whom have now returned to work.

At the full council meeting in December, the SNP group tabled a motion calling for retrieval of the £20m.

The council agreed to try all avenues to retrieve any money which contractors were found not to have been entitled.

Now SNP group leader David Stocks has called on council chief executive Paul Jukes to publish all findings and clarify its effects on the council budget for 2017-18.

Councillor Stocks said: “The corruption investigation started in April and auditors top-secret findings were detailed in September.

“It took this information being leaked to the press for councillors to learn what is going on. We’ve now waited a further two months for any statement from the council.

“This corruption report must not be hidden away until after the local elections, we face balancing our council budget on February 23 and the auditors’ report must affect our decisions.

“Presumably lessons have been learned and this will affect our future estimates for contracts and procurement deals, and if corruption is proven there may also be up to £20m to claw back.

“This investigation has been going on for over ten months, it’s time for the council to finally tell councillors and the public what is going on.”

Mr Jukes stated councillors can see the report once it is complete, but denied the £20m would affect this year’s budget, even refusing to call it an ‘overspend’.

He said: “I have repeatedly made clear the internal audit report will be made available to councillors only when the disciplinary process is completed, that remains the case.

“To be clear, there is no ‘overspend’ in relation to the contracts examined. Work was carried out within service budgets.

“The issue relates to the estimated value of contracts when they were approved by council and works carried out beyond that estimated value.

“There is, therefore, no impact on decisions around the setting of next year’s revenue budget.”