Red faced council officials admit error cost £3000 payment to UN group

Rhona Gunn
Rhona Gunn – ‘misunderstanding’ over CIFAL payment

A ROUTINE REPORT to Moray Councillors on energy saving measures started a mini-row in the chamber this week when officials were accused of trying to hide an administrative error.

During their meeting on Tuesday members of the policy and resources committee were presented with a report detailing progress on the Council’s energy reduction strategy.

At the end of that report they were asked to agree “later in the financial year” to pay CIFAL a one-off sum of £3000 “to support energy awareness and behavioural change within the third sector”.

CIFAL – a United Nations organisation with a base in Moray that advises on sustainable development – had played a key role in advising the council strategy, supporting the local authority energy team in a way that had “a positive impact on energy consumption”.

However, under pressure from Councillors it was revealed that the £3000 payment was the result of a “misunderstanding” between officials and CIFAL over the level of funding being provided.

Moray Council had agreed to pay £12,000 for staff education on energy efficiency – but CIFAL claimed that the local authority owed £6000 more.

Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross was aggrieved at the proposal to ‘smooth over’ the situation by agreeing to pay CIFAL £3000, saying: “I find this very strange at a time of restrained budgets – while it is a relatively small sum they all add up and it is not the council’s responsibility to fund this training.”

Director for economic development at Moray Council, Rhona Gunn, said that it had been clear that CIFAL would only be paid £12,000 – but admitted that errors were made when adding: “I don’t think that this was approached as thoroughly as it should have been by CIFAL or council officers – we did not clarify that misunderstanding as quickly as we should have done.”

Following praise from SNP councillor Gordon McDonald over the role played by CIFAL he proposed that the committee approve the £3000 funding and that was agreed by 10 votes to three.