Businesses in Dundee repeatedly raised concerns about the awarding of an £8.3 million council contract which is now at the heart of a major corporate fraud investigation.
The Courier revealed on Friday Dundee City Council’s head of construction Mark Ross has stepped down in the midst of a probe into a deal to provide heat and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in local authority-owned homes.
Fraud investigators are looking into allegations Mr Ross and another council official were treated to a golf trip on the Spanish coast by bosses at Edmundson Electrical – the company awarded the contract – just one month after the deal got under way.
An investigation established the contract was awarded to Edmundson’s Dundee branch without ever going out to tender.
Dundee City Council’s legal department previously stated Edmundson was subcontracted by Dundee Contracts but last night stated for the first time this was actually done by the council department Construction Services, which was headed up by Mr Ross.
The Courier has learned a number of local suppliers contacted the council to express concerns about how the contract was awarded and attempt to submit rival bids.
Electrical distributor Rexel UK is one business understood to have approached the local authority with concerns.
A source said the company raised the issue in August after learning the contract had been awarded without the opportunity for them to submit a proposal. The source said Rexel would have “bitten their hand off” for a chance to provide a quote.
Another local supplier confirmed a sales representative had “chased it up” to see if a proposal could be submitted but was told this would not be possible.
The manager of a third business confirmed it also raised the issue with senior personnel at the council but he was not aware of any action being taken.
He said: “What is interesting to me is the level the contract went out at. If no one priced it, no one has any idea what the price of the units really are. There is no way of knowing whether the deal was worth what they paid for it.”
Dundee City Council said the contract was not put out to tender due to the “degree of urgency” for it to be awarded, despite every council in Scotland being asked to fulfil the same safety requirements by February 2021.
Council leader John Alexander called for processes to be “tightened where necessary” following the investigation.
He said: “Where questions are raised, any and all serious allegations will be thoroughly investigated and where appropriate, action taken. It’s never acceptable.
“Such instances are quite rare and are generally picked up by the council’s processes and internal auditing. I expect, as will all of Dundee’s councillors, that action is taken and processes tightened where necessary.”
Dundee City Council was asked on Friday how many businesses had approached with concerns about the Edmundson Electrical contract or had attempted to submit a bid.
A spokesman did not address the question asked, saying instead: “The council places the highest priority on tenant safety in our council housing.
“The safety of the council’s tenants is paramount and we moved swiftly in order to ensure that we met the legal requirements in time.”