ONE of the most senior officials at Edinburgh City Council has been suspended in the wake of the multi-million pound investigation into the authority’s property repairs service.
Dave Anderson, director of city development, was sent home from work on Monday after being summoned to a meeting with chief executive Sue Bruce and told disciplinary proceedings had begun against him.
He had previously had overall responsibility for running the council’s “statutory repairs” service that is at the centre a long-running corruption probe and an ongoing police investigation. He was initially put in charge of investigating a host of complaints.
Mr Anderson, who has a salary of £123,525, has been in charge of efforts to attract inward investment to the city.
His suspension has plunged the new Labour-SNP administration in the capital into crisis just weeks after the coalition was formed to take charge of the city.
Last night council leader Andrew Burns said he had “every confidence” that the investigation into Mr Anderson would be resolved “properly and as quickly as possible”.
The council said Mr Anderson, who was previously a senior director of operations in the Scottish Enterprise network, had been suspended pending a disciplinary investigation into “managerial matters”, but refused to discuss the nature of the issues involved.
However, he is understood to have been heavily criticised in a secret report by independent consultants brought in to investigate a string of allegations and a huge increase in the cost of repairs. The value of these shot up from some £9.2 million in 2005 to around £30m in 2010.
It is thought Mr Anderson faces claims that there was not enough scrutiny of what was going on in the property conservation department, where a number of senior managers have since been suspended.
The council’s property repairs service has been plagued by allegations of corruption, mismanagement and fraud, which are said to date back to 2007, the year before Mr Anderson arrived at the council.
There have been allegations about substandard materials being used, contractors being given jobs despite not being on an approved list of firms, confidential information being disclosed to certain firms, and council staff receiving unofficial payments along with undisclosed hospitality.
Councillors and MSPs were among those to raise serious concerns about reported problems, which included constituents being overcharged for work that was not needed.
However, it was not until November 2010 that the council revealed Lothian and Borders Police had been called in, several months after the council launched a formal investigation.
Several current or former council staff are now believed to be facing criminal charges as a result of the police investigation.
One source said: “There were strenuous attempts to cover up what went on within the council when the complaints started to come in. They were clearly serious enough for police involvement, but action was not taken quickly enough. This should never have dragged on for years.”
Eight council staff have already been dismissed in the wake of the wide-ranging probe. A further nine are still suspended.
Independent consultants Deloitte were called in by Ms Bruce just months after her arrival at the council in January of last year.
Mr Anderson’s suspension has come months after he was stripped of key responsibilities, including planning, transport, building standards and public safety.
Ms Bruce said: “I can confirm that the director of city development has been suspended with immediate effect pending a disciplinary investigation into managerial matters.
“The council has clear procedures to handle such cases. It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.”
It is understood that one of Mr Anderson’s senior staff, head of economic development Greg Ward, has been asked to take on a number of extra responsibilities.
Mr Burns said: “This is a management matter and I have every confidence that the chief executive will see that it is resolved properly and as quickly as possible. I will be seeking regular updates on progress.”
It emerged last week that just 20 of almost 900 complaints over the council’s property repairs service have been resolved, despite the investigation costing the local authority £1.5m over the past two years.
Although details of the various investigations have been kept under wraps, the council has admitted that £30m has been paid out to contractors over a five-year period without any bills being sent to property owners.
There have also been claims that customers may have already been overcharged by as much as £13.5m for repairs, for which the council has issued bills.
Only a handful of councillors, including Mr Burns, have seen the report, in a redacted form.
The Scotsman revealed last week that the full report may not be made public until after criminal proceedings are completed.