Council ‘must reveal secret report’ over dirty tricks

Cameron House. Picture: Toby williams
Cameron House. Picture: Toby williams
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COMMUNITY centre bosses in the middle of allegations of council “dirty tricks” have raised concerns about how their complaints about fake e-mails and other alleged underhand behaviour by city officials have been dealt with.

A public statement released by the management committee at Cameron House in Prestonfield “endorsed” the News’ reports of recent days, which catalogued extraordinary claims about council staff behaviour.

We revealed yesterday city auditors had received complaints of council staff with connections to whistleblower John Travers being bombarded with pornography as part of an alleged campaign of intimidation and harassment, designed to keep them silent.

We also reported how the council has offered to apologise to Cameron House staff after our earlier revelations about the botched redevelopment of the highly-regarded community centre.

And we reported complaints that officials failed to deal with concerns raised about work, doctored e-mails and one even posed as a member of the public to gain covert access to the building in an effort to cover their tracks.

In the statement, Moira O’Neill, chair of the management committee, confirmed its members were interviewed by the council’s chief internal auditor and provided evidence for a report, which was considered by councillors in private.

The council’s chief auditor is employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and is currently working on secondment to the local authority.

The committee has asked to see the sections of the report which detail their evidence but have been refused permission for this. That has left them concerned about how much of their testimony is being passed on to councillors, who will decide what action needs to be taken. The report is understood to confirm links between the Cameron House episode and the treatment of Mr Travers, who raised concerns about potential fraud at Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership (ELLP), an arm’s-length council company.

Ms O’Neill said it had been “impossible” for the committee to reassure themselves that their concerns have been documented fully and accurately, due to the council’s decision to keep the report secret.

She said she hopes the council’s deputy chief executive, Alastair Maclean, and director of communities and families, Gillian Tee, will “verify” their complaints during a meeting with Cameron House staff next week.

Councillor Cameron Rose, the leader of the Conservative opposition on the city council, said the intervention of the Cameron House management committee underlined the need to make the report public.

He said: “I understand the frustration the management committee must feel, given the litany of events now being exposed.

“I recognise the [council’s] audit committee are by no means finished with the matter and senior officers of the council need to address the concerns expressed.

“But I can see no reason why the majority of the story told in the chief auditor’s report cannot now be made public. After all public money and public services were involved.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The detailed report by the council’s chief internal auditor has been discussed and scrutinised at great length by the Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee.

“In addition, council representatives will be meeting the Cameron House management committee next week to apologise for past mistakes.

“No further investigations will be taken by the council in the meantime but we do treat allegations of wrongdoing extremely seriously.

“If any new evidence comes to light we will investigate further.”