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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Council whistleblower wins 200K
A Devon council worker sacked after he told bosses about irregularities in a 1m tendering process for new dustcarts has been awarded more than 200,000.

Matthew Harper, 48, told how one firm was allowed to retender from 50,000 above rivals to only 300 below.

The deal fell through after his revelations to Torbay Council, an industrial tribunal in Exeter was told.

An independent inquiry is now taking place into a cover up by a senior manager of a report into the process.

There is no other way to describe it than that Mr Yeo lied
Tribunal chairman Paul Housego

Mr Harper, who was then the council's assistant transport manager, told his bosses in 2003 about how one of the companies bidding for the contract was allowed to submit the new tender.

He also exposed how tests to determine the running costs of different sorts of dustcarts, including a weighbridge reading, were fiddled.

The tribunal heard an internal audit into the affair was ordered which exposed serious irregularities.

But Mike Yeo, the council's director of environmental services, told Mr Harper that the audit had found no serious faults.

In August 2004 Mr Harper was told he no longer had a job.

The tribunal panel agreed he had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him 208,356.

Panel chairman Paul Housego said: "There is no other way to describe it than that Mr Yeo lied about its contents.

"It is a damning report. At its most charitable it reports on staggering incompetence.

"The internal audit report says no direct evidence of corruption or other impropriety was found. In our opinion this damns with faint praise.

Chief's apology

"There was a cover up, there was a failure to manage and there was deception. Mr Harper behaved with exemplary dignity throughout."

After the case Mr Harper said: "I have lost my job and my career and the people who caused this are still in their jobs with their salaries and pensions and other benefits."

The council said no action had been taken against Mr Yeo, but the results of an independent investigation into the case, due to be published next month, would determine "whether any further action is appropriate".

It said it had since tightened up its procedures over tendering and it had adopted a new policy so that whistleblowers would not be victimised.

Chief Executive Elizabeth Raikes apologised in a letter to Mr Harper for the "stress and aggravation" and thanked him for raising the issues.

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