A COUNCIL has ordered an independent review of how it grants contracts as part of a major corruption crackdown.

Auditors at Labour-run North Lanarkshire have already questioned millions of pounds of business that went to firms close to council officials and local politicians.

Their findings, revealed in our sister paper the Sunday Herald last year, have been passed on to the police amid continuing disciplinary action against officers past and present.

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The council’s new leadership, facing a tough challenge from the SNP at May’s local elections, has broken an unwritten rule of not mentioning the word “corruption”. Councillors Jim Logue and Paul Kelly replaced an old guard led by former leader Jim McCabe last year.

Mr McCabe has denied he is corrupt and defended his friendships with several multi-millionaires in receipt of large contracts. Auditors have not found any evidence that Mr McCabe’s friends benefitted financially from their relationship with the councillor.

Officials have now outlined counter-corruption proposals in a report to the authority’s ruling Policy and Resources Committee later this week.

These include inviting Scotland Excel, a nationwide body that handles tenders for Scottish local authorities, to review North Lanarkshire’s “strategic approach to procurement”.

Council leader Jim Logue said: “I wholly endorse this report. From the moment these serious allegations were drawn to my attention I have been proactive in ensuring we leave no stone unturned to investigate and to change our systems where that is required.

“While the disciplinary process is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the allegations under investigation.

“However, an independent review of our strategic procurement approach is sensible and I am also pleased improvements have now been made in terms of contract management to ensure clearer accountability and better monitoring.

“This includes a better system of recording spend against contract value for measured term contracts. These are the right things to do and will ensure confidence and accountability in all our procurement activity.”

North Lanarkshire has already made some changes in the way it agrees contracts. Work that has not been fully and openly tendered for can now only be granted to a private firm in emergency circumstances, according to the report to the Policy and Resources Committee. This means there are now more small-value tenders. It has also stepped up monitoring of large contracts.

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Opposition SNP councillors have complained about not getting access to a full audit investigation into allegations of corruption in North Lanarkshire. Officials say they cannot release the report, seen by The Herald, until disciplinary matters are at an end.

The investigation was sparked by a letter from whistleblowers to this newspaper after a series of stories over the course of 2015 and 2016 about the council.