Ombudsman rejects councillor’s call for investigation

Councillor Jonathan Wills has failed in his attempt to persuade the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to investigate what he describes as the “waste” of £6 million on three major council projects. He now intends to bring the matter up with First Minister Alex Salmond.

The Lerwick South member wrote to the ombudsman last month after Audit Scotland admitted it had not examined a single one of his detailed complaints about “excessive, premature and abortive” spending on the new Anderson High School, the abortive Bressay bridge project and Mareel.

Dr Wills said he had now received a letter from SPSO investigations manager Kathleen Steindl, explaining that Section 5(6) of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act, 2002, did not allow the ombudsman to consider complaints from councillors, although his complaint might have been looked as if he had made it “as a member of the public”.

Dr Wills said: “This is like something from the theatre of the absurd. It would be amusing were it not so pathetic.

“To make it even more ridiculous, the letter from the ombudsman was marked ‘Confidential’. Well, there’s nothing confidential about my complaint so, unless a bona fide member of the public, who’s not a councillor, wishes to take the matter up with the ombudsman, my next stop will be a letter to the First Minister.

“It cannot be right for £6 million of public funds to be thrown away on grandiose, totemic projects with impunity, ignoring the council’s own procedures for managing large capital schemes. Hopefully the Scottish ministers will wish to set up an inquiry to find out who’s responsible and call them to account.”

SIC convener Sandy Cluness has accused Dr Wills of waging a “witchhunt” against him.


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