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Council scraps public probe into illegal contract

News

SCARBOROUGH BOROUGH council this week scrapped the working group it set up to publicly investigate how it unlawfully awarded sea defence consultancy work.

Instead it has decided to conduct an independent investigation after an internal disciplinary investigation of the officers. The independent investigation will not be public although its findings will be published.

An Audit Commission report published last December criticised the council for awarding £4.2M of consultancy contracts to High-Point Rendel without advertising them in the Offi - cial Journal of the European Union.

The report also highlighted huge hikes in project costs on the council's sea defence projects (NCE 16/30 December 2004).

The council is seeking advice from the Society of Local Association Chief Executives (SOLACE) on whether a SOLACE member, a lawyer or ICE member with procurement experience should be chosen to carry out the independent investigation.

The move has won support from Scarborough MP and ICE fellow Lawrie Quinn, who believes the internal disciplinary investigation will ensure the offi cers involved are not named in public.

He also supports the appointment of a qualified investigator.

The scrapped working party was led by a former local headmaster.

But he still called on the government to intervene to restore public confidence.

'Confi dence in the town hall is at rock bottom. The Council cannot move away from this without external assistance, ' said Quinn.

He has written to public spending watchdog the National Audit Offi e (NAO) and the Standards Board for England to investigate further, but has not yet received a reply (News last week).

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