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24.04.19

Aberdeen City Council contract failings revealed in new audit report

Aberdeen City Council is to publish its unaudited annual accounts after an audit report revealed the authority had broken European law in its handling of some of its contracts.

The new report into Aberdeen City Council’s handling of contracts, to be presented to next week’s audit committee, shows that the authority broke complex EU tendering rules across three separate payments as well as authorising last resort ‘directed surveillance’ applications last year.

The council yesterday stated that it will publish the unaudited annual accounts for 2018-19 “in the interests of transparency and public awareness.”

The account will be made available on 14 May, and Aberdeen CC said it will provide information that can help anyone assess how the council has performed during the year and understand its position.

The audit report revealed that the authority’s combined spend on similar products and services or across multiple orders, called aggregate expenditure, was too high on three occasions.

It also revealed that council bosses approved three undercover operations in three months, with surveillance and human undercover sources authorised in order to investigate counterfeit goods and disabled driving fraud.

Investigators were tasked with examining the council’s compliance with procurement legislation for over £600m worth of payments made every year, and found that procurement legislation was broken as suppliers were also not given specific contracts for tender.

One fifth of the council contracts examined were not put through the legally required register, and a total of 13 concerns were raised with the audit including auditors being unable to find committee approval for eight out of 50 spending cases.

The report said the majority of contracts reviewed were compliant with regulations, but this “was not always the case” and as result of the combined spend “the council is in breach of procurement legislation as a result.”

Audit committee convener Stephen Flynn said: “Complying with procurement legislation is fundamentally important for all public bodies and robust processes must be in place.

“Similarly, where it is clear that a decision is one that should be taken by councillors then, quite simply, that matter must come before the relevant committee.”

Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden added: “We have to comply with European regulations and I’m sure that actions identified will be put in place.”

Image credit - T. Thielemans

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