The long-awaited findings of the Accounts Commission’s hearing into the high-profile crisis within Shetland Islands Council are to be published on Monday.
A two-day hearing into the circumstances surrounding the appointment and departure of former chief executive David Clark was held at the end of June and the commission confirmed today that it would be ready to reveal its findings, along with full transcripts of the hearing, next week. It is likely to make a series of recommendations as to how the local authority can run more smoothly and put behind it a damaging series of events which have eroded public confidence in the organisation.
Reacting to the findings and carrying out any recommendations will be the first major task for new interim chief executive Alistair Buchan, on secondment from Orkney Islands Council for around two and a half years. He took up the post on Monday.
Mr Clark was given a payoff of £285,000 to leave the council in February and the hearing was told by Cosla and council lawyers that public criticism of Mr Clark by several councillors, including outspoken Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills, had made the payoff unavoidable.
There was much talk among members about “truth and reconciliation” and after the hearing’s conclusion Dr Wills and convener Sandy Cluness agreed to bury the hatchet having been at loggerheads for much of the past two years.
The hearing – prompted by a damning report by Audit Scotland – saw councillors, officials, parliamentarians and members of the public give evidence to a panel of five including Accounts Commission chairman John Baillie. It also examined the auditors’ continual qualification of the SIC’s financial accounts because of its inability to group its books with those of Shetland Charitable Trust each year.
Mr Buchan is seeking a shift in emphasis towards discussing the policy options for the isles’ future and believes, despite the ruptures of the past twelve months, that everyone involved wants what is best for Shetland: “I have met no-one, at member level or officer level, yet who hasn’t been wholly committed to this community and wanting to do the right thing for it,” he said this week.