SERIOUS allegations of “fingers in the till” have been made as councillors demand answers from their own civil servants.

Community Party Councillor Jim Bollan told last week’s full West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) meeting that a whistleblower had claimed a tendering document was altered to suit a company that got more than £2million in public contracts.

He also listed some of the dozens of receipts for hospitality for three WDC officers and the company, which included £650 for golf at Cameron House.

And he called for a public inquiry into what’s been “covered up”.

A 135-page report was prepared by the council’s internal auditors, but the copy made available to councillors was ovewhelmingly blank.

Those councillors voted unanimously that a “suitably redacted” full copy of the report be given to them within seven working days.

They also agreed to refer the report to Audit Scotland and ruled that no council officer be allowed to leave WDC employment with any type of package until auditors had reached a conclusion.

The extraordinary, near hour-long presentation by Cllr Bollan was delivered to an almost completely silent chamber at Clydebank Town Hall on Thursday.

Cllr Bollan was cautioned early on by the council’s legal officer that he could be in breach of the code of conduct. And Cllr Bollan admitted himself he would likely be reported to the Standards Commissioner.

But he said: “This is something I have to get out in the open. I was elected to try to do my best as a councillor.

“Three senior officers have had their fingers in the till.”

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Cllr Bollan, who said he had been asking about the internal investigation since June 2017, said the report had 87 completely blank pages, another 34 heavily redacted and only 14 for councillors to read.

Other elected members admitted struggling to decipher what they were looking at, given the redactions.

Cllr Bollan told the meeting: “During the investigation, one of the allegations was that a senior officer took a tender document from this council to the owner’s house of a company that this council do business with and was allocated £2.4m. The allegation is that the document was altered and the following day that tender was allocated.

“What myself and [former councillor] George Black and the police asked internal audit was, can you source that tender document? If you can, it gives irrefutable evidence that the whistleblower was correct.

“Neither myself, nor police, nor George Black, have been shown that document.”

Councillor Martin Rooney interjected: “That bit is not in the report – I’m blindsided by this.”

Chief executive Joyce White also said no actions had been brought to her attention “about documents being changed”.

The tender related to a car park in Swindon Street, Dalmuir, worth more than £70,000, including VAT.

Having listed off a handful of hospitality receipts related to the firm that won the contract, Cllr Bollan said: “Unless those officers can prove they paid their fair share, and I don’t believe they can, then I believe there’s plenty of evidence to suggest there’s been some wrong doing.

“If you were a care worker or bin man, you would be put into the disciplinary process immediately.”

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Mrs White said the internal audit found no issues relating to hospitality.

Peter Hessett, the legal officer, said a legal standard had been applied to the redaction.

Cllr Bollan insisted he and George Black had never mentioned the names of the three officers or their department. He said Mrs White had “thrown them under the bus”.

But Mrs White hit back angrily at Cllr Bollan, insisting they had a “duty of care to our employees” and robust processes in place.

She said: “I take exception to what you said. I have not shared the names of anyone.

“This council has been on an improvement journey on its procurement processes and has improved.

“I am very concerned about the level of criticism of employees within this chamber today. You have been critical, you have said ‘fingers in the till’, ‘covers up’.

“It has huge employee relations issues for this council. I’m also very concerned we are creating a reputational challenge. And I look forward to receiving the report from Audit Scotland which we hope to have by the end of March.”

Councillor Ian Dickson, who seconded Cllr Bollan’s motion, said the report was “excessively redacted” and that it was disappointing the council’s chief auditor, who wrote the report, wasn’t at the meeting. That echoed criticism by Cllr Bollan.

Cllr Rooney said there was “clearly a failure in council processes” and “it seems to be wilful”.

Bailie Denis Agnew said the council had many staff who did a “good, intelligent job” and they should be careful not to “tar them all with the same brush”.

But he said he couldn’t make “head or tail” of the redacted report on the allegations.

He added: “We should get the information we deserve.”

Councillor Danny Lennie also cautioned against a “kangaroo court” but that the integrity of the council was more important.

He said: “We cannot afford the public having any doubt about how we work. I hope [the council officers] are innocent, but I have to agree with Jim that ... we need to be completely clear and everything has to be out in the open.

“We have to convince the public and show the public we have investigated this and Audit Scotland have investigated this. We really need to get this right.”

Council leader Jonathan McColl pointed out that there were legal barriers to councillors getting involved in the day-to-day running of local authorities. And he said he was “comforted that the police found no criminality”.

Cllr Bollan told the meeting that police had interviewed the whistleblower twice, but the person would not be able to go into the witness box, effectively halting the investigation.

And he said while it was possible council officers repaid their fair share for hospitality, there was no proof they did or didn’t.

He said: “The auditor says it could be widespread across the council. If this is happening in other departments, this could be the tip of the iceberg.

“I welcome Audit Scotland looking at this. We need external eyes on this and I think the Information Commissioner will need to look at it.

“George Black and I believe we will need a public inquiry into these serious allegations.

“I was trying to share information so members are as informed as I am. Then, as a body, we can test it.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Bollan said the redacted report states: “The allegations of the receipt of hospitality by officers has been unproven, however the clear lack of compliance with council procurement policies, standing orders and financial regulations has meant these officers are BLANK are unable to prove that their procurement decisions were not influenced through friendships or socialising with the BLANK of this company.”