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NAO urged to probe 'unlawful' coastal work

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SCARBOROUGH MP Lawrie Quinn this week urged the government's public spending watchdog to investigate the unlawful award of sea defence consultancy work by his local council.

He demanded that the National Audit Offi ce (NAO) probe the contracts after the council suspended its own inquiry last week.

Quinn, an ICE Fellow, has written to the NAO chief, Comptroller & Auditor General Sir John Bourn, calling for him to intervene.

He has also urged local government watchdog the Standards Board for England to investigate.

Last week Scarborough Borough Council suspended its internal inquiry into how five contracts worth £4.2M were awarded to consultant High Point Rendel without being advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The inquiry was launched after local government spending watchdog the Audit Commission described the award of the contracts as 'unlawful' (NCE 16/30 December).

Quinn wants the NAO to investigate because the work was funded using millions of pounds of public money from the Department of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs.

'These projects have an important national perspective and I am aware that many colleagues across the UK construction industry are looking closely at the outcomes from Scarborough, ' said Quinn.

After the Audit Commission report in December, the council said it would hold an inquiry in public.

But legal advice obtained just before the fi rst witness was due to be called recommended suspending the investigation.

It is understood the council's lawyers feared that calling witnesses might prejudice a planned disciplinary investigation.

Quinn criticised the council's earlier decision to conduct its own investigation. He said there should be an independent inquiry run by a senior civil engineer with arbitration experience.

Damian Arnold

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