By Monica Gibson

A COUNCILLOR claims “questions still need answered” after a £2.3 million fraud attempt went unnoticed by East Renfrewshire’s local authority.

Earlier this year, East Renfrewshire Council (ERC) was contacted on fraudulent headed paper requesting bank details to be changed.

Without any further checks being carried out, the system was updated with the fraudulent details and, days later, two payments totalling £2.35m were actioned.

The money left ERC’s accounts before the bank identified the amended bank details were invalid and, a few days later, the amounts were reimbursed.

The matter has been discussed at ERC’s Audit and Scrutiny meetings but some representatives believe there are many questions unanswered, including why there was a 103-day delay before police were informed about the fraud bid.

Councillor David Macdonald described the situation as a serious financial failing and believes someone should be held accountable. He told the Barrhead News: “This keeps being referred to as attempted fraud. The whole situation is being downplayed because there was no money lost.

“It’s ridiculous. A crime is a crime.

“In terms of the criminals fooling the council, in terms of details being changed and the money being sent to the fraudulent details, it was a success.”

Cllr Macdonald, who is an Independent representative for Clarkston, Netherlee and Williamwood, added: “What I want to know is where the failings took place?

“What are the timelines we are dealing with and, ultimately, who is responsible?

“It is public record that the police investigation didn’t start for three months, I have asked why but received no answers.

“What we are talking about is a significant financial failing and it is taxpayers’ money at stake.

“The electorate deserves to know how this happened. There is no point in saying it won’t happen again and brushing it under that carpet.

“The council will have a huge amount of invoices and that makes them a target. The only way to stop a significant failing from happening is to fully understand how and where the failing took place and then create a new system.”

Council chiefs confirmed police were alerted to the fraud attempt, which was caused by “human error.”

A spokesperson for ERC said: “Unfortunately, councils are the target of many fraud attempts every year. In March, we were subject to a fraudulent request to change a supplier’s bank details.

“This fraud attempt was unsuccessful and council funds were never transferred to the bogus party by our bank.

“The fraud attempt occurred during a period when supplier details were being updated and human error resulted in a supplier’s bank details being updated with the fraudulent information without double checking.

“All appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that control measures are followed by staff at all times.

“The report into this matter was reported to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee following established procedures and timescales, with a live police investigation ongoing.”