MSP comments on Audit Scotland Report on Argyll and Bute Alcohol and Drugs Partnership

Commenting on the newly published Audit Scotland report on the Argyll & Bute Alcohol and Drugs Partnership contract process, undertaken by Argyll & Bute Council last year, Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“This Audit Scotland report describes a shambolic process, riddled with errors and resulting in a contract outcome that may have breached the law.

“It is of course clear that the contract cannot be re-awarded to anyone else at this stage, more than six months after the tender was won. Fortunately Addaction are now performing well, but that is despite the ADP and the Council, not because of them.

“However the report lays bare all the things that the Council’s critics have complained about for a long time.

“For example, the Council at an early stage cleared itself of all wrongdoing. It was only the pressure of the other drugs and alcohol agencies in Argyll & Bute, working with the two local MSPs, that succeeded in getting this external examination of the process, which has come to a very different conclusion.

“In addition, Audit Scotland confirms that the ADP governance arrangements were chaotic and cumbersome, something which applies to the Council as well. These arrangements were of course overseen by as senior Council official though they were described some time ago as being “far from best practice.”

“The report also reveals that councillors were not kept informed and consulted, an anti-democratic style of management which is common place in the authority as most local people know only too well.

“We are very familiar in Argyll & Bute with the Council applying buckets of whitewash to itself, no matter the mess it makes, and that modus operandi is now confirmed for all to see in the Audit Scotland document.

“I am therefore very surprised, however, that despite previous reports showing how appallingly poor the Council’s performance and service delivery is, and despite reams of evidence from incidents such as the Castle Toward fiasco and the recent chaos round the lifeline Hebridean Air Services contract, all the watchdog seems prepared to do after this latest disaster is look for a few small improvements. Indeed the report states that Audit Scotland has concluded its examination of the whole matter and is leaving it up to Argyll & Bute Council to implement change. Experience shows that never happens.

“Audit Scotland must wake up and see that their report merely confirms an existing and damaging pattern of serial failure from a local authority that is being badly led and poorly managed. There must be radical action to change that, for the sake of all local citizens, and I shall be asking the Minster for Local Government and Audit Scotland to press for extensive and far-reaching change in the Council as quickly as possible.”

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