Call for answers from council investigation

Midlothian House, Buccleuch St Dalkeith
Midlothian House, Buccleuch St Dalkeith

The chairman of the Midlothian Federation of Community Councils is calling for answers to the serious fraud allegations investigation into the council’s roads department.

Robert Hogg has accused the local authority of a cover-up and “trying to sweep it under the carpet”, in a stinging attack on its handling of the scandal.

An internal investigation was launched in March over the awarding of road servicing contracts by the council. It is understood a senior official is alleged to have set up a “fake” company or companies and effectively handed himself up to £2 million worth of council work.

The initial internal investigation was completed by May, when a confidential report was sent to Police Scotland.

Now Robert Hogg, chairman of the Midlothian Federation of Community Councils, is calling for answers.

He said: “The council are trying to sweep it under the carpet, keep it quiet. The chief executive has made no apology regarding what’s been going on.

“They are saying they have not lost any money but why then are the police looking into it? It doesn’t add up.

“They are just happy to stay quiet and see it die down.

“Nobody senior is taking any blame whatsoever. Where was the due diligence? It looks like none took place in seven years. In any other job you would be out the door.

“I just think it’s a big cover-up. I think the lack of information is not good enough for the public. We have asked questions but we just get told nothing. I think there is a lot more to come out.”

With Dr Grace Vickers taking over as chief executive from Kenneth Lawrie just last week, Mr Hogg has sympathy for her but is still demanding answers.

He said: “Unfortunately the new chief executive is going to have this to start with which isn’t good for her. It’s not her fault. But we need answers.

“The more they don’t say anything the more suspicious you get. It’s a lack of information. It doesn’t help. It puts more suspicion on the council. To the public it will look like a cover-up. They are asking questions.

“We raised it at our last Federation meeting in June. Our next meeting isn’t until September. I’m sure if we had one this month we would be raising it again with the council as this is important to the Midlothian public.”

A council spokesman said: “The findings from the first phase of the council’s internal audit and corporate fraud team investigation into procurement irregularities are currently with Police Scotland and this is an ongoing police matter.”

Police Scotland said as there is an ongoing investigation it would be “inappropriate to comment further”.