Corruption Democracy Financial Industry Scotland

Corruption in West Dunbartonshire Council

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by Councillor Jim Bollan

“A whistle blower approached myself and my colleague Cllr George Black about corruption by senior WDC officials.

We met the whistle blower in Dumbarton in late 2016. The main charge was that the managing director of a private company Called JRB Construction Ltd was being “allocated” Council work below the radar with no contracts, quotes or any paper trail, by senior Council Officials. 

We were provided with a wealth of documents which we took away and assessed.

We were astonished when we looked at the documents which showed the managing director of JRB was a close personal friend of some of the senior officials who were in a position to approve the work his company was “allocated”. 

There was also around 50 receipts for hospitality in various hotels, restaurants and golf events around Scotland. All paid for by the Companies credit card who was “allocated” the work. The hospitality receipts carried the names of those in attendance plus who their employer was and some were the same senior council officials who “allocated” the work. When totalled up it came to almost £9m over a number of years.

Councillor Jim Bollan

The whistleblower we met had given all the same info to the Council’s internal auditor one year before the info was given to George and I. 

The whistleblower contacted Cllr Black when Internal Audit never got back to them.

We knew we had to go through the internal process first so we met the internal auditor a few times but he was very defensive and at one stage refused to answer our questions.

We knew at that point the establishment on WDC were circling the wagons and were trying to control the flow of information. We also knew they had something to hide, but at this stage we did not know it went right to the top the CEO of the Council.

We contacted and met with the Police and gave them all the info we had. The local Police looked into the info we provided but because the whistle blower was not prepared to go to Court the Police could not take it any further at that stage.

The whistleblower then provided me me with additional information which suggested public money had been used for private gain by the most senior officer. I went back to the Police and this time the Financial Crime Unit who are based in Glasgow became involved.

They also carried out an investigation but concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed. As is always the case with these matters you need to follow the money but the officers had left no paper trail because around 30% of all Council Work given out was not covered by a contract or 3 quotes and breached the Council’s own procurement rules. A lot of the work was ordered by email using the departments email address only. No signatures.

What the offices did not know at that stage was that I have 43 receipts showing various Council Officers receiving lavish hospitality from the Managing Director of JRB who they admitted under caution was a close personal friend, to some of them.

The Managing Director put this hospitality down as a business expense to claim tax relief and had to name those receiving the hospitality and what organisation they worked for.

The Council referred the matter to Audit Scotland for investigation. They produced a damning report which confirmed that the CEO knew for years that officers were deliberately breaching the Council’s procurement and financial regulations but condoned it, in my book that makes her complicit.

When the internal Audit report of 136 pages finally arrived for discussion at the Council in early 2019, 3 years after the whistle bower gave WDC all the information, there was 88 pages completely blacked out (redacted). It was impossible to read and make any sense of it. I objected and got WDC to instruct the CEO to come back with a report that was readable. The second report came back with a few additional pages unredacted but still unreadable. In between times I had sourced a copy of the report that was completely unredacted. I advised the Council of this at the meeting. After debate I moved we arrange for an Independent Investigation into the fraud & corruption allegations when the vote was taken only myself and Cllr Lawrence O’Neill a Labour Cllr voted for an independent enquiry.

The Council has 22 members.

On 30.8.2019 I received a letter from the Standards Commission telling me Mrs White the CEO had reported me for various charges, totalling 18, all linked to the fraud and corruption.

Mrs White is playing the old game of deflecting to deceive. I have been made the villian to deflect from Mrs White’s negligence and professional mismanagement where she approved of the corruption ( dishonesty by public officials) which in the words of Audit Scotland, the financial loss to WDC is incalculable.

I have no regrets playing a part in uncovering this corruption. Had I sat on the information I would have been complicit the same as the CEO. This is about truth to power plus freedom of speech and expression.”

 

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