A former government fraud investigator today said Audit Scotland should “follow the money” to get the bottom of a controversial Meadowbank land deal.
Chris Cook is a former fraud investigator for the Department of Trade & Industry and was subsequently a City regulator. Reacting to news that Audit Scotland is poised to investigate the recent deal that saw Edinburgh Council buy land at 1% of its market value, he said: “On the surface it looks great the Council will make a large profit but that might not be the whole story as we don’t yet know what other deals were linked to this one.
“I would investigate who sold the land to previous owners Reasonmutual and for how much. I would also ask questions about other land deals in the area that might be related.
“The ’round number’ sale price of £100,000 sets alarm bells ringing too. It is the sort of value above which certain bureaucratic permissions or checks and balances kick in, and below which there are very few questions asked. And, as the Scottish Information Commissioner found, documentation may be somewhat sparse.
“I would ask what other transactions at this price level have been made by the Council and investigate them as well.
“Hopefully Audit Scotland will not confine their examination purely to this one transaction. To establish the truth all an auditor has to do is remember the fraud investigator’s Golden Rule and ‘follow the money’.”