SBC’s handling of a waste management contract and its decision to write off £2m already spent on the abortive project should be referred to the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland.
That is the view of Andrew Farquhar, the former councillor who last year led an unsuccessful campaign for the reinstatement of kerbside garden waste collections.
He was reacting to the news that SBC had terminated a deal, signed in 2011 with a firm called New Earth Solutions (NES), for the installation of a £23m advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant at the region’s landfill site at Easter Langlee in Galashiels.
As reported in these columns last week, the contract was scrapped because of “project-specific issues in terms of technology and funding”.
Mr Farquhar is supporting the call from Hawick Independent councillor Watson McAteer for an investigation into what went wrong.
When Mr McAteer went public with that demand last week, the council claimed the £2m it had expended on technical, legal and financial advice and project management had been “properly spent”.
“Given the contractual obligations with NES, the money was used both appropriately and, we believe, effectively,” said an SBC spokesperson.
Council leader David Parker added: “There is absolutely no reason to believe the NES project was anything other than well managed throughout.
“I am sure, in closing the project, our officers will complete an appropriate review to ensure all learning opportunities are maximised. I see no reason to refer this matter to Audit Scotland.”
Mr Farquhar, whose garden waste petition was rejected in October last year, described that response as “totally inadequate”.
“At my petition hearing, the ATT at Easter Langlee was hailed as the panacea for all the council’s waste management problems and no fears about its delivery were voiced,” he told The Berwickshire News.
“Something has gone seriously wrong with £2m of taxpayers’ money down the drain with nothing to show for it and all this happened on Mr Parker’s watch.
“In these circumstances, he should desist from making any further decisions on how this matter will be investigated and refer it to Audit Scotland for their consideration.”