Council repairs scandal: £1m of documents ‘missing’

The statutory repairs scandal continues to rumble on. Picture: Callum Bennetts
The statutory repairs scandal continues to rumble on. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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DOCUMENTS charting more than £1 million of building work ordered by the city’s shamed property repairs department have gone missing, it was revealed today.

Finance chiefs are searching through cabinets to find missing files relating to dozens of projects affecting scores of householders. Failure to unearth the reports could mean the city writing off more than £1m or facing compensation requests from residents impacted by the blunder.

Today, critics pointed to the major lapses in record-keeping as further evidence of the “chaos of the past”.

Green finance spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett said: “Nothing better shows the chaos of the past than the shoddy record-keeping. Councillors will want to make sure that every stone is upturned so that all the former cases are fully accounted for.”

News of the missing files emerged as it was revealed the total outstanding debt from the scandal has topped £34m – with bills for around £22m of repairs still to be served.

Finance reports written last week valued repairs in the missing documents at £3.2m but council sources today claim around £2m of repair notes have since been recovered. It is not yet known how the missing documents were retrieved.

In March, auditors Deloitte were appointed to help recoup £22m of debt, with all outstanding projects now subject to third-party verification before being charged out to property owners.

Under the statutory notice system, Edinburgh City Council could intervene to organise repair work on private properties when the owners of shared buildings could not reach agreement.

But the system was accused of being open to bribery, overcharging and unnecessary work being done. Police later charged 15 people – four former employees and 12 associates – involved in property care with alleged fraud, corruption and money laundering.

It has emerged that 17 employees from the under-fire property departments – finally scrapped in April – have now been dismissed, resigned or retired.

Colin Mortimer, a victim of the statutory notice scandal who saw his property repairs soar from £9000 to £22,000, is one of thousands of Capital households still waiting to be billed.

He said: “It really is quite laughable. I find it quite extraordinary and in my particular case we have work done which was finished in 2009 and was snagging and we still haven’t had the bill. This project equals the trams for incompetence and is probably worse.”

Councillor Joanna Mowat, of the Edinburgh Conservatives, said the scale of missing information within the controversy was “appalling”, adding: “If anyone was under any illusion that this was going to be sorted out they are going to be disappointed.”

Finance convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “We have a clear and robust programme in place to close off the issues relating to the former property conservation service – and, in so doing, to reassure the public that the council has cleaned up its act.

“Good progress is being made on piecing together information on outstanding projects, which can now be concluded and billed. We will continue to make every effort to recover any money due to the council fairly as this is essential for funding frontline services for the people of Edinburgh.”