Moray Council’s head of procurement knew nothing about a pair of cabins bought for around £235,000.
The cabins were purchased to house children attending Aberlour Primary School nursery during a £1 million refurbishment.
However, the units were never used for that purpose, and the council is now looking to sell them.
The issue was revealed during discussions on the council’s annual procurement report.
‘We didn’t know anything about’ Aberlour nursery cabins
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross highlighted a section of the document stating procedures must be followed by all officers without exception.
And that tender opportunities should be fair and transparent.
He said: “We’ve had a case in this council where that has clearly not been adhered to.
“I hope when the audit and scrutiny committee looks at this, they look at the procurement of the cabins in the early learning sector for Aberlour.
“Because it was most distressing, and very distressing for the public that this has been allowed to happen.”
Mr Ross also asked if there was any progress in selling the cabins and recouping some of the money spent.
Payments manager Diane Beattie told the meeting her department checks all regulated contracts, as anything over £50,000 has to be supported by a procurement officer.
She said: “The incident you refer to never reached procurement. We didn’t know anything about it.
“Normally our workload is determined by the annual procurement plan, but not everything can be planned.
“About 60% of our work at the moment is unplanned, so we expect officers to request support from ourselves when work is under way.
“Unfortunately in the incident you’re talking about, it never came in our direction.”
Findings from an investigation into the purchase of the units recommended selling them as a matter of urgency.
Discussions have been held with a couple of local authorities, but it is not known if the cabins have been sold or not.
Aberlour Primary School nursery refurbishment is part of Moray Council’s £55 million expansion of its early years service.
It is being carried out to provide 1,140 hours of childcare for three- to five-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds, which is a Scottish Government priority.
But £340,00 was already spent on the project before any work started on site.
That figure includes replacement doors bought to comply with building regulations costing £14,000.
A further £2,000 was spent having them delivered to a council depot in Keith.
Councillors kept in the dark
Nursery children and staff relocated to nearby Speyside High School at the start of the new term.
They are expected to stay there for around eight weeks for the work to be completed.
Major refurbishment of the nursery was supposed to begin in August 2020.
But because of the pandemic, that was rescheduled to start before the end of 2021.
An order to buy the temporary cabins was issued in March 2021.
The idea was one of the units would be sited in the grounds of Aberlour Primary and the other at Speyside High.
In May 2021 safety issued were highlighted over the classroom at the secondary school being near the car park.
That along with budget pressures delayed the project further.
In November 2022, councillors complained they had been left in the dark on a proposal to set up a temporary outdoor nursery in Aberlour.
Yurts were to be placed in a field next to the cemetery.
The idea was to move the children there for a six-month period between the Easter and October holidays this year so work could be carried out.
But a planning application for the outdoor nursery was withdrawn in December following fears over flooding and road safety.
In February this year an investigation into the project was called after councillors raised issued with procedures followed by officers.
It emerged the cabins were being kept at a site at Kintore in Aberdeenshire, at a cost to the council £90 a week.