The last update on the controversial purchase of nursery cabins in Moray sparked emotional comments.
Moray Council audit manager Dafydd Lewis gave his final report into the purchase of two temporary nursery cabins for £235,000.
They were supposed to house children from Aberlour Primary School nursery during a £1 million refurbishment.
But they were never used for that purpose. And they are currently up for sale on the council’s website.
An investigation into the matter found a £117,000 unauthorised payment for the units was made without the say so of the chief financial officer – breaking procedure.
A final update on the issue went before audit and scrutiny committee on Wednesday.
However as he introduced the paper Mr Lewis said: “As your auditor I report based on evidence.
“Whether my report agrees or not with senior management, corporate management or other management I don’t care.
“I will report to you independently as your auditor.
“And the moment anyone tells me to change my report, I’ll be coming to this committee.”
There was a stony silence in the chamber following his comments.
While saying the Aberlour scheme was not the council’s “finest hour” Mr Lewis added staff had been working under considerable pressure at the time because of the Covid pandemic.
Not Moray Council’s finest hour
And while agreeing councillors were right to raise their concern over the issue, they could be reassured project management procedures have improved.
All recommendation from the investigation have been complied with.
Councillor for Speyside Glenlivet Derek Ross was at the centre of calling for an investigation into the purchase of the cabins.
While not a member of the committee, he was given permission to speak.
Mr Ross criticised an original idea of having one of the units placed near the car park at Speyside High school, feeling it was unsafe.
And a proposal to have children in an outdoor learning setting next to the cemetery, which was rejected by councillors.
But he was interrupted by chairman Graham Leadbitter. He asked the Speyside Glenlivet councillor to keep his comments to the report in front of them.
Mr Ross felt he had been “closed down” but continued.
He said: “Avoidable mistakes have been made and there has been reputational damage to the council.
“We are paying storage for two cabins that are deteriorating.
£90 a week storage fee
“When does it become financially imprudent for us to continue this if there’s no purchase?”
Head of housing and property Edward Thomas told the meeting various community and commercial organisations have shown interest in the units.
And he reassured Mr Ross the expected yield from the sale would “exceed the cost of the interim storage”.
The local authority is paying £90 a week to have the cabins kept at a site in Kintore, Aberdeenshire.
Whoever buys them will have to collect them from the depot.
And as they are flat packed they will have to put them together too.
As well as the cost of the cabins the council spent £2,000 having replacement doors for the nursery delivered to Keith.
The children and staff relocated to rooms in Speyside High School in August to allow work to start.
They moved back into the refurbished nursery earlier this month.
Work on the building was supposed to begin in August 2020.