SCOTLAND’S £5 million-a-year Gaelic quango has been accused of “drowning in the detail of a failing organisation” after MSPs raised fresh concerns over its performance.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig was branded a “total disaster” earlier this year after a devastating audit highlighted a string of issues including “ineffective leadership” and a lack of transparency.

Paul Johnston, director-general of education, communities and justice at the Scottish Government, said there has since been significant improvement.

However MSPs heard the latest annual audit report for 2019/20 found inaccuracies in the body’s own reporting of its improvement plan.

The Scottish Government was also accused of failing to act after it emerged concerns were raised prior to the first damning audit.

The latest revelations emerged at Holyrood’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee.

Scottish Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: “I accept that progress can be seen in the most recent report, but it’s progress from a very low bar.

“The nature of the errors that we’re talking about here are so basic that frankly they beggar belief.”

Mr Tomkins questioned why the bar was allowed to fall so low, adding: “Is it near incompetence or is it something more sinister than that?”

Mr Johnston said the Scottish Government was “very clear that we needed to see swift and material improvement”.

Committee convener Anas Sarwar MSP asked why auditors had found inaccuracies in the body's improvement plan.

Shona MacLennan, chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, pointed to "the level of detail and the volume of detail", as well as a lack of resources and the fact staff have been working from home since March.

She said “perhaps five” inaccuracies were found by auditors, and they were down to human error.

SNP MSP Colin Beattie said the 2019/20 annual audit by Deloitte raised concerns about inaccurate information, financial sustainability and poor levels of scrutiny, among other things.

Mr Beattie said: “We’re talking about inaccuracies here. We’re talking about insufficient documentation. We’re talking about missing documentation.”

He quoted one section of the audit report which read: “We have been particularly concerned by updates provided by management to the Board which suggest that the 2018/19 audit findings and recommendations were flawed and were subsequently contradicted by other independent advice....

“In our opinion, such updates from management were unnecessary, inaccurate and served only to undermine confidence in audit quality.”

Mr Beattie added: “This seems like an effort to put some sort of whitewash on it and make it look better, and this report has brought out those very facts. That’s quite serious to me.”

Ms MacLennan said there had never been any question of not accepting the findings of previous audit reports.

Elsewhere, Mr Johnston said the board was being "drowned in the detail of pages and pages and pages of improvement plan commentary".

Mr Sarwar pointed out that report was 18 pages long and said: “I’m not willing to accept that Bòrd na Gàidhlig is drowning in an improvement plan, when in actual fact it looks like it’s drowning in the detail of a failing organisation.”

SNP MSP Alex Neil later questioned why the Scottish Government did not intervene much earlier.

He asked: “Why did you not bell the cat? Why did you not do something sooner before the organisation got into total crisis?"

Mr Johnston said the Scottish Government had been working closely with Bòrd na Gàidhlig “well before the audit came to light”.

Mr Johnston and Douglas Ansdell, head of the Gaelic and Scots team at the Scottish Government, later revealed three individuals had raised concerns about governance and leadership in Bòrd na Gàidhlig before the damning audit report.

Two were named and one was anonymous.

Mr Neil said it appeared Scottish Government officials were warned about the “crisis” but simply decided it was an internal matter for the board.

Elsewhere, Mr Ansdell was asked to detail the “key performance indicators”, or targets, the Scottish Government had set for the Gaelic quango.

He could not name them.