Police investigating Edinburgh’s property repair scandal have been called in to probe massive bills at a community centre for work that was never carried out.
The move comes as the investigation into the statutory notice system is widened to include the property care department of the city council which handles maintenance work at community buildings and schools.
Colinton Mains Community Centre was on a shortlist of centres that faced the axe last year because of excessive costs of keeping it open.
But members of the centre’s management committee won it a late reprieve after questioning a series of bills handled by the property care department for work that they claimed never happened at the Firrhill Loan centre.
Now details of the bills – which totalled £3000 more than the true cost of the work carried out – have been passed to police.
Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who reported the issue to police this week after it emerged that the community centre’s management committee has never had the charges explained despite calling for a full audit to be carried out, said: “I have passed all relevant information to the serious fraud unit and I have again requested the council undertake an internal audit.
“It is scandalous to think that a thriving, well-used local facility could potentially have been closed on the back of erroneous figures and the actions of any individual perpetrating such a fraud would be beneath contempt.
“Whether there has been incompetent housekeeping or deliberate malpractice it is essential there is greater transparency and every form of corruption is weeded out.”
The community centre bills are being investigated as part of the wider inquiries into the dealings of staff within both the property conservation department, which deals with statutory repairs, and the property care team. The work that the community centre’s management committee raised concerns about stretch over three years, from 2007 to 2010. It includes a £287 for removing offensive graffiti in 2007/08, followed by another £544.50 charge a year later for removing racist graffiti – despite no graffiti having been discovered or reported in that period.
Peggy Wright, secretary of the Colinton Mains Community Centre, said: “All we knew at the time was that items in each of the three years in the list of repairs did not match up with what had been done.”
She said that they had only gained access to repair bills – which are dealt with directly by the council – for the last three years so fears the problems could have gone on even longer.
It emerged last month that the police investigation had been extended to the council’s property care team after two members of staff were suspended.
In relation to Colinton Mains Community Centre, a police spokesman said: “We can confirm a complaint has been received which is now being investigated.”
Council officials are also continuing their own internal investigation. A council spokesman said: “The ongoing independent investigations mean it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment further. The fact that we commissioned Deloitte to carry out an investigation is a sign of how seriously we take the complaints.”THE DAMAGE
Bills for work that Colinton Mains Community Centre says never happened
* £449.35 for repairs to roof in 2007-8 after vandals removed slates
* £440 in 2009-10 for more roof repairs
* £287.02 in 2007-08 for removing graffiti
* £544.50 in 2009-10 for removing graffiti
* £806.25 in 2007-8 for clearing blocked drains
* £591.25 in 2008-9 for blocked drains with “raw sewage seeping out”
* £227.36 in 2009-10 for clearing drains