A long-awaited report setting out the true cost of the Inverness West Link road has been delayed by Highland Council.
Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland has criticised the authority for failing to provide updates on the cost of the controversial road, amid claims the bill could exceed £60million.
Councillors had been told the latest position would be revealed by December 31, but the authority’s director of finance Derek Yule has now said the report will be available by February when the full council next meets.
The last update was in September last year, despite a caution from auditors that regular reports were required on projected costs due to the scale of the project.
In their report Audit Scotland said the council’s current arrangements “do not ensure adequate scrutiny of performance”.
The most recent estimate of costs for the bypass was £34million.
Councillor Thomas MacLennan, Fort William and Ardnamurchan, compared the Audit Scotland findings to a “blockbuster novel”.
He said: “You get to the last page and it’s gone from factual to some kind of fiction.”
Councillor Donnie Kerr, Inverness Central, added: “We really need to get to the bottom of this and find out what the costs are.
“There’s too much happening which we are just not being filled in on.
“I think this really is something that Audit Scotland have highlighted where we have a considerable deficit here.”
Mr Yule said he accepted that it had been wrong to suggest a December 31 publication date initially, but insisted his team was “looking very closely” at the West Link scheme.
He blamed the delays on a restructuring of the authority’s capital plan, due to a number of major school developments, including Inverness Royal Academy and new high schools at Tain and Wick.
Current plans for the bypass include a second swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal and a low-level bridge over the River Ness.
He added: “I would also give the assurance that costs have only increased with inflation but I do recognise that it is some time since a report was brought stating that position.”