‘Irregularities’ lead to repayment from Herts County Council highways contractor

Herts Highways image

Herts Highways image - Credit: Archant

ALMOST £280,000 has been reimbursed to Herts County Council (HCC) from a former highways contractor following an investigation into allegations of unethical behaviour.

The claims, which came to light from a whistleblower last January, were directed at some employees at Amey Lafarge and involved inaccurate record keeping and false charging.

A council investigation found “irregularities” that have resulted in a financial payout and internal disciplinary action at the firm.

County councillor for St Albans central, Chris White, called on police to also launch a criminal investigation earlier this year, saying it was the most serious issue he had raised at a county council meeting for 20 years.

But Herts Police decided after reviewing the matter for a second time that no further action was required.

Cllr White said: “It is clear that some lessons have been learned. But the council constantly needs to acknowledge that it is taking a risk with our money when it employs private contractors.

“It must never again abdicate from its responsibility for checking up on how our money is spent. I would encourage anyone with any information about mismanagement or fraud to approach councillors again.”

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The findings were recently presented in a report to the council’s Audit Committee, which also noted the use of new IT and GPS technology meant irregularities, such as those alleged, would no longer be possible.

A spokesperson for HCC said: “HCC takes any allegations of impropriety very seriously. We have a clear and well-established whistle-blowing procedure and take firm action to ensure that the best interests of Hertfordshire residents are protected.”

They added in addition to the investigation: “At the time, we also informed Herts Constabulary, whose view then was that this was a civil, rather than a criminal matter.

“A further review in 2013 by Herts Constabulary has established that any further police investigation or action is unnecessary.

“As we had already investigated this matter and were satisfied by the action taken by Amey Lafarge at the time, this decision by the police brings this matter to a close.”

Amey Lafarge, which was part of Herts Highways but has now been replaced by Ringway, were also described as co-operating throughout.

A spokesperson for Amey Lafarge said: “Amey Lafarge takes any allegations of fraud extremely seriously. A thorough internal and independent investigation was carried out into a small number of employees at the time and appropriate disciplinary action was taken.”