Press ex­cluded from coun­cil meet­ing about fraud

Perthshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Cargill

Coun­cil­lors chose to dis­cuss a pa­per re­veal­ing that a lo­cal au­thor­ity cashier stole money while work­ing at Pullar House in pri­vate this week – amid con­cerns the per­son who pock­eted the cash would be iden­ti­fied dur­ing pro­ceed­ings.

Perth and Kin­ross Coun­cil’s head of le­gal and gov­er­nance ser­vices Lisa Simp­son rec­om­mended its au­dit com­mit­tee ex­clude the pub­lic and the press from the coun­cil’s cham­bers be­fore re­view­ing the re­port on Wed­nes­day, stress­ing that the em­ployee’s iden­tity had to be kept un­der wraps.

It was said in the re­port that the in­di­vid­ual had “rou­tinely” re­versed cash trans­ac­tions in or­der to trouser money over a 15-month pe­riod.

As she summed up her rea­sons for mak­ing her rec­om­men­da­tion, which the com­mit­tee duly ac­cepted, Ms Simp­son also claimed “some” re­ports in the lo­cal press about the case lead­ing up to the meet­ing had been in­ac­cu­rate.

Specif­i­cally she said no res­i­dent had been billed for any­thing like a five-fig­ure sum men­tioned in a story fea­tured else­where, prompt­ing one coun­cil­lor to ask for a press re­lease to be put out straight af­ter the meet­ing set­ting out ex­actly what had been re­ported wrongly.

In that press re­lease the con­vener of the com­mit­tee, Coun­cil­lor Eric Drys­dale, was quoted as say­ing: “Re­gard­ing the re­port con­sid­ered in pri­vate by the au­dit com­mit­tee ear­lier to­day, I can con­firm that, con­trary to some re­cent lo­cal press cover­age, no res­i­dent re­ceived any ad­di­tional or in­cor­rect bill in con­nec­tion with the ac­tiv­i­ties that were the sub­ject of the re­port.

“Th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties in­volved a se­ries of low-level trans­ac­tions which made them ini­tially hard to de­tect.

“As stated in the re­port, the to­tal sum iden­ti­fied has been re­paid and the per­son is no longer em­ployed by the coun­cil.

“A num­ber of ac­tions were taken im­me­di­ately to strengthen the con­trols in the cash of­fice.

“In re­la­tion to the ex­clu­sion of the press and pub­lic, the grounds are set out in leg­is­la­tion which the elected mem­bers are fa­mil­iar with, and also in the coun­cil’s Stand­ing Or­ders.

“The de­ci­sion by the com­mit­tee at that time is fi­nal.”

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