AUDITORS have slammed council bosses who didn’t declare they were friends with a company who won £9million in contracts.

Audit Scotland said it was impossible to quantify the impact on costs for West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) over “regularly” breaching procurement policies.

And some details were withheld from councillors over problems in roads and greenspace services.

But staff who didn’t declare their connections to a firm, and their bosses, were cleared by the council. And Audit Scotland agreed they made “reasonable” conclusions and that the rules weren’t clear enough.

A special council meeting will be held on May 14 into the Audit Scotland report, published last week.

Council bosses welcomed the report.

It has taken three years to get to this point, since the first whistleblowing tipoff in March 2016.

In that time, no disciplinary action has been taken against the officers involved, despite bosses concluding procurement procedures were not always followed.

Police Scotland also investigated but took no action.

READ MORE: West Dunbartonshire Council corruption allegations report remains heavily redacted

An internal council report on the situation still has 80 completely redacted pages, despite councillors unanimously telling their officers to reconsider.

Audit Scotland was called in earlier this year and pointed out that between 2013 and 2016, procurement policies had “regularly been breached”, resulting in most work being awarded without a tender process or seeking sufficient quotes.

There were also procurement issues in fire detection and alarm services - exposed last year by the Reporter - and “emerging” issues with social care service contracts.

Only 72 per cent of contracts complied with regulations and council bosses have set a target of 90 per cent by the end of 2020/21.

Councillor Jim Bollan, who has been pushing for years to get transparency on the issue, said: “The Audit Scotland report is very critical and scathing of the shambolic processes used by WDC to procure services after a private contractor was ‘awarded’ around work to the value of £9m.

“Twenty-eight per cent of all council work awarded breaches the council’s own regulations, resulting in best value not being achieved.

“Whilst being critical, the report does not take us one step closer to holding these senior officers to account for their corrupt practices.

“The CEO and the senior management team were aware of this practice for years and condoned the fact that, ‘Procurement financial regulations were regularly circumnavigated’. Key information was withheld from the audit committee of councillors in December 2018. This strikes at the heart of accountability and democracy.

“These are serious grave matters and need to be faced and dealt with urgently.”

Audit Scotland was blunt that members of the senior management team “were aware that procurement practices were not being followed for some service contracts over a number of years”.

But there was no reference to “off contract” spending in breach of regulations in the annual procurement report to councillors and the public.

“We have identified that the council did not have effective controls in place to monitor revenue spend consistently against contracts across all services,” said Audit Scotland.

“This is of particular concern where contracts are being awarded outwith the procurement processes.

“Since January 2019, additional controls have been put in place to monitor spend against contracts.”

But crucially, they concluded: “In our opinion, the council’s controls to ensure personal relationships between officers and suppliers do not influence the awarding of contracts were not effective. It is not possible to identify whether this influenced the awarding of council contracts.”

The relationship between those staff and contractors “should have been declared”. But because the employee code of conduct was “not explicit”, it was right for WDC not to pursue disciplinary action against staff.

A spokeswoman for WDC said: “The council welcomes the findings of this independent review and will take the necessary action in response.

“This is precisely why we asked for this scrutiny of our process and we would like to thank Audit Scotland for their role.

“It is reassuring that a number of the required improvements are already being addressed and we look forward to updating elected members on progress on the action plan on May 14.”