Staff at a college “personally benefited” from the use of its materials and lecturing time to “build, model and repair” their homes and other properties, according to startling claims set out in a leaked report.

The document, which has been seen by The Herald, states that “numerous” individuals at South Lanarkshire College (SLC) were allegedly involved in completing a major construction job for a colleague. Whistleblowers claimed the project – described as being “of significant scale” and known as “the Big Job” – was completed in or around 2013.

It is alleged that another “homer” – a term for cash-in-hand work conducted outside of college duties and undertaken during college time – was completed for an “old friend or acquaintance” of one of those interviewed as part of a “forensic” investigation into complaints of theft and malfeasance. There were also accusations that golf signs were constructed on the SLC campus, with the assumption that this was again done using college materials and staff time.

The report by investigators from Azets, an international accountancy, tax, audit and business services group, addresses a range of concerns about alleged conduct and behaviours within SLC’s construction faculty. They include claims that materials such as scrap were used or disposed of for “personal gain”, issues with timetabling, issues with results given to students and falsification of student numbers. There are also complaints that key suppliers provided “kickbacks and freebies” to select staff in a bid to obtain business.

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Further detail in the Azets document, which SLC previously refused to publish, outlines alleged supplier entertaining, with college vehicles said to have been used for transport purposes during annual weekend camping and hiking trips. In addition, it is claimed “a number of” staff were bullied or intimidated “over a period of time”. These accusations were dealt with separately by SLC’s human resources (HR) department.

The Azets report states there is “some evidence” that “homer” jobs may have been conducted. It says investigators identified blueprints and other building documentation relating to the “Big Job” carried out in or around 2013, as well as emails indicating that management of the work was conducted during college time. Photographs of golf signs allegedly constructed on the SLC campus were also seen.

On the issue of alleged kickbacks and entertaining, Azets investigators obtained an email from one supplier offering “more freebies” to SLC staff. Their report adds: “We have observed numerous electronic communications between SLC staff and external people, whom we understand to be suppliers and/or friends, organising camping and hiking trips. This involves SLC vehicles being booked out for the purposes of these trips over weekends.”

In nearly all cases investigators identified no “substantive evidence” to support the allegations, which were received in September 2020. However, the authors stress their report was limited to the scope of work “as per the instructions” that were agreed in a letter of engagement dated February 16, 2021. They also acknowledge there “may be factors which are not within our knowledge or competence as chartered accountants which may have to be considered”.

SLC insisted yesterday that the report concluded there was “no evidence of criminality that would have necessitated a further investigation by the police”. A spokesman stressed that “recommendations were identified, all of which were accepted by the college”. He added that this included improvements to SLC’s HR function.

HeraldScotland: Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said it was "astonishing" to suggest the claims were not a police matter.Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said it was "astonishing" to suggest the claims were not a police matter.

However, Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said the claims were “incredible” and clearly a matter for Police Scotland.

The allegations are likely to heap fresh pressure on Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, who was SLC head of HR from May 2002 to May 2015. Mr Simpson told MSPs during a Holyrood exchange earlier this month that Ms Oswald should say what she knew about the matter.

In a separate development, it has emerged a member of staff at the college was suspended on June 17 and is now subject to an investigation. The Herald understands the individual is based in the construction faculty and that the suspension is in connection with the alleged theft of college materials. SLC said yesterday that the suspension was “not linked” to the Azets report.

The latest developments come after college principal Aileen McKechnie, who commissioned the Azets probe, was suspended along with Brian Keegan, interim clerk to SLC’s board of management. The college said previously that the board had agreed to the suspensions so independent investigations could take place into complaints against Ms McKechnie, Mr Keegan and board chair Andy Kerr. Mr Kerr, a former Labour minister, voluntarily stepped aside from his role for the duration of the inquiries, which are ongoing.

Mr Simpson said: “Some of the claims in [the Azets] document are incredible. There’s talk of a major job for a college employee, golf signs being made, a customer of a homer job complaining to the college, scrap being sold for personal gain, freebies, kickbacks – the list goes on.

“To say that none of this is a police matter is astonishing. Frankly, it is not the job of a firm of auditors or college management to decide that – it is for the police to decide if there’s something to investigate. I would have thought that there is rather a lot for them to get their teeth into here."

Mr Simpson added: “The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) will have seen this bombshell report. The funding council needs to say why they have apparently done nothing.”

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The SFC stressed yesterday that its chief executive Karen Watt was not present during a meeting in November last year when it was agreed Ms McKechnie and Mr Keegan would be suspended. The organisation said Ms Watt addressed the board regarding expectations of good governance and left before the meeting officially began.

An SFC spokeswoman said: “The internal audit report by Azets stated in May 2021 that it found no substantive evidence to support the allegations it was asked to investigate.

“The suspensions of the principal and interim clerk to the board, and the stepping aside of the chair, are related to HR matters and complaint handling processes, and are not directly connected to the internal audit findings about the college’s construction faculty. Independent investigations into current HR matters are ongoing.”

An SNP spokesman said yesterday that Ms Oswald had not worked for SLC since 2015 and had no information to contribute.