Friday, 14 September 2012

Scratching the surface

After I made several phone calls to the Procurator Fiscal's office a couple of weeks ago, the Crown Office suddenly announced last week that information provided by the police on the payments by Midlothian Council for the Bonnyrigg Rose car park 'did not disclose a crime'.

What 'information' I don't know, but I was told only a few weeks ago that the police had only asked the PF for advice and had not submitted a detailed report. I suspect therefore that the council's internal audit report never landed on the PF's desk either, despite the police holding on to a lot of information for well over a year.

However, now that police involvement is complete, the council has agreed to release its internal audit report to the public (Item 16 part 2, from this list). The five page Executive Summary is well worth a read and the report itself raises a number of questions.

Was the work signed off by the council? If not, why not, and if so then on what basis? More importantly, if, as I believe, the football club did not benefit, then who did? And why is the club not going after those (outside the council) who are responsible? After all, it had a contract with a building firm which has clearly not been fulfilled. There are 32 items on the detailed invoice. If any of these were not fulfilled by the builder, why has the club not taken action?

Under Item 4.3 it seems the club's committee were largely unaware of transactions regarding the car park, decided apparently at a committee meeting for which no minutes were taken.  Why was the club run 'almost exclusively on a cash basis' (page 151) and the Social Club kept unaware of proposed developments on its land (page 142)? Was no-one on the committee asking these questions or talking to the Social Club?

There is a lot of talk about openness and transparency in local government and I think Midlothian Council has been commendable in investigating what went wrong at its end. I know there are people associated with the club who have not been happy with my investigations, but hopefully after reading the report they will see that it too has been a victim of this sorry mess. I would hope that, realising they have been kept in the dark about various aspects of it, they too will start asking questions. Only then can the whole truth come out and we can call closure on it all.

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