McKee defends ‘corruption’ accusations over ferries
Scottish government ministers have been accused of “institutional corruption” over a failure to reveal the whereabouts of key documents and the line of responsibility over the ferries contract.
Labour and Tory shadow ministers piled pressure on business minister Ivan McKee as he defended the government’s handling of the Ferguson Marine ferries which are delayed and over budget.
Mr McKee repeated that the Scottish Government has been “absolutely transparent” about the decision making process and the information which informed those decisions.
Audit Scotland last week said there was an absence of documentation relating to the contracts, prompting calls for the police to investigate. It has been suggested that the transparency failure was a breach of the Public Finance and Accountability Act. The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has denied a ‘cover up’.
The new row surfaced as Scottish Labour’s shadow transport secretary Daniel Johnson questioned Mr McKee about whether there was due diligence over the “lost documentation”.
Mr McKee responded: “There is a clear audit trail of key decisions and the basis on which they were taken.”
Mr Johnson said: “The Auditor General describes this as for frustrating. He is being charitable. It is at best negligent and incompetent. At worst, it could be unlawful, breaching the [Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act] and or the Freedom of Information Act.
“So will the minister commission an investigation into this matter to establish the facts and critically whether or not the law has been broken?”
Mr McKee said that the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, the procurement agency CMAL and state-owned Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) had all “co-operated fully” with Audit Scotland and committee inquiries.
He said “this included provision of documentation, provision of a detailed written statement, as well as interviews with key personnel and attendance by both our officials and Scottish ministers. We’ve also committed to undertake a review, as I said earlier, on completion of the two vessels”.
Mr Johnson replied: “You could call this many things, negligent, incompetent, deficient, but when these decisions have all been willful and deliberate, the word I would use is corrupt, perhaps not for individual gain, but a corruption of the process for party political games, contrary to public interest. So if that’s not the word the minister would use, what word would he use?”
The business minister said: “What is important to recognise.. is that Ferguson seven years after those events is still employing hundreds and hundreds of people, still contributing to the local economy… and it’s keeping commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde alive.
“That’s why it’s important. Supporting Scottish industry.”
Mr Simpson for the Conservatives, said: “This is institutional corruption on a grand scale. Ivan McKee is showing breathtaking arrogance if he thinks there’s been any, any transparency over this.
“This is the SNP’s secret Scotland at its worst. Now, let me quote you another law. The Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 , which requires the Scottish Government to have a record management plan.
“And the Act requires the plan to identify the individual responsible for the management of the department’s public records. So who was the person in this case? I want the name. And why didn’t they ensure that there was a record of the decision making process?”
Mr McKee repeated that ministers have “been transparent,” adding: “We have published the documents that are available. We have complied with the inquiries that have taken place. We’ve committed to undertaking a review and completion of the vessels. “So we are being transparent we are being open.”
Mr Simpson added: “What is the point of members coming to this chamber asking straight questions, when the minister completely ignores the question and Answers something else? What is the point?”