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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 20:10 GMT
Officegate charity report leaked
Former First Minister Henry McLeish's offices
Officegate centred on the sub-let of the office
Council officials may face disciplinary action over the funding of a charity linked to the downfall of former first minister Henry McLeish, it has emerged.

BBC Scotland has obtained details of a Fife Council inquiry into its dealings with the Third Age Group.

Mr McLeish quit his post last November when a sub-let of his constituency office involving the charity came to light as part of the controversy dubbed Officegate.

Fife Council
Fife Council carried out an inquiry
Fife Council's chief executive Douglas Sinclair has conducted two inquiries into allegations that money was paid to the charity - which provided services to old people - after it had been wound up.

The first found that the council had acted "beyond reproach".

However, the latest report, seen by BBC Scotland, says council officials acted "inappropriately" in their dealings with Third Age.

They may face disciplinary action because the charity received about 32,000 in the two years after its management team ceased to exist.

Mr Sinclair's report says it is unacceptable that elected members were not informed of this arrangement.

'Tory smear'

Concerns are also raised about "substantial crossover" between Labour Party members, charity workers and social workers.

It is also clear that Mr McLeish wrote to the charity requesting rent for the sub-let of part of his constituency office.

However, Mr McLeish has dismissed the leaked report as a "Tory smear" and a red-herring from the real report, which will be published on Friday.

He said the report was bigger than the McLeish family and accused the Conservatives of scraping around to find muck to throw at him.


It carries the danger that it could prejudice a fair hearing of any potential disciplinary action against the employees who are named in the report

Douglas Sinclair
Chief executive
Mr McLeish said it was the "worst kept secret" that the charity had rented an office from him, and said his letter to Third Age had only been an invoice for the rent.

And he stressed that all the money from the charity had been disclosed to the Fees Office at Westminster.

Every penny sent to Third Age by Fife Council was spent on helping older people, he added.

Fife Council said it would be making a copy of the chief executive's inquiry available to the public, although the names of people involved will be withheld.

Mr Sinclair said he was disappointed that a report had been leaked.

Political leadership

"It carries the danger that it could prejudice a fair hearing of any potential disciplinary action against the employees who are named in the report," he said.

However, opposition parties quickly seized on the findings.

Scottish National Party MSP Tricia Marwick said: "Officials are going to be blamed. It really is about time that the political leadership of Fife Council took some responsibility for their actions."


It really is about time that the political leadership of Fife Council took some responsibility for their actions

Tricia Marwick
Scottish National Party
Tory local government spokesman Keith Harding said: "If reports are accurate, this publication points to a network of patronage and cronyism that runs rife through the very heart of Labour-controlled Fife Council."

The Officegate controversy which led to the Central Fife MSP's resignation as first minister last year centred on his office in Glenrothes.

He claimed expenses from the House of Commons for the office during the 14 years he was Westminster MP for Central Fife - but failed to declare the 36,000 he made from sub-lets.

The discovery of the sub-let involving the Third Age Group was seen as the final straw which prompted his resignation.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Political correspondent Glenn Campbell
"Opposition parties have seized on the report's findings"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Scotland
Auditor probes Officegate row
08 Nov 01 | Scotland
Constituency stunned by resignation
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Q&A: Officegate
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