Police are investigating claims of theft and fraud at a Scottish college, The Herald can reveal.

Staff within the construction faculty at South Lanarkshire College (SLC) allegedly benefited from the use of its materials and lecturing time to “build, model and repair” their homes and other properties.

There have also been complaints that key suppliers provided “kickbacks and freebies” to select individuals in a bid to obtain business, with some employees said to have been bullied and intimidated over a “prolonged period”. 

These and other accusations – including claims that scrap was used or disposed of for “personal gain” and that SLC staff stole equipment – are described in a secret report by Azets, an international accountancy, audit and business services group.

The document, which was leaked to The Herald, states that investigators did not identify “substantive evidence” to support most of the allegations. However, they did uncover weaknesses in college processes and offered proposals aimed at securing improvement. SLC leaders said previously that a separate investigation concluded there was no evidence of bullying or harassment at their institution.

It has now emerged that detectives are probing complaints as set out in the Azets report. The Herald has also been told college bosses agree that police involvement is necessary.

READ MORE: SNP deputy Westminster leader under fresh pressure over South Lanarkshire College

Documents show that claims of malfeasance and misconduct date back years. In one case, whistleblowers alleged that “numerous” SLC staff helped complete a major construction job for a colleague. The project is said to have been finished in or around 2013.

Police are also investigating an alleged theft from the college following a report last month. A member of staff has been suspended. 

Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, who asked police to launch a probe, said: “My view is that people have been getting away with wrongdoing and should be brought to book for that.”

The latest developments come as SLC deals with the fallout from a collapse in governance relations. College principal Aileen McKechnie and Brian Keegan, interim clerk to the board of management, remain suspended pending the completion of investigations into complaints against them and board chair Andy Kerr. Mr Kerr, a former Labour minister, has voluntarily stepped aside from his role for the duration of the inquiries.

Ms McKechnie commissioned the Azets investigation into whistleblowing allegations regarding theft and malfeasance after they were received in September 2020. She was also instrumental in the launch of a Scottish Funding Council preliminary review that sought to address major governance issues and “strained relationships” at SLC.

HeraldScotland: Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said college bosses had agreed that police involvement would be necessary.Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said college bosses had agreed that police involvement would be necessary.

Commenting on his involvement in the unfolding situation, Mr Simpson said: "I asked the police to investigate the serious claims made in the Azets report. I have also passed on the names of people that have spoken to me and are happy to help the police.

"Further to that, I have met with college bosses and they now agree with me that police should be investigating claims of theft, fraud, bribery etc. That is a welcome development. It is now for the police to follow whatever evidence they find and to decide how to proceed with it."

He added: "Moving on, we need to clear up the situation with the suspended college principal and clerk to the board. This has the potential to needlessly cost the college a fortune at a time when - like all colleges - they are being underfunded and can ill afford it."

READ MORE: Staff accused of cheating South Lanarkshire College 'to build and repair' own homes

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said the force was “working with South Lanarkshire College and is reviewing information around potential historical incidents of theft and fraud in order to establish any criminality”.

Asked to comment on the suspension of an SLC staff member last month, she added: “Enquiries are continuing following a report of a theft from South Lanarkshire College on Thursday, 16 June, 2022."

An SLC spokesman said: "The college has been made aware that information has been provided to Police Scotland from an external source on allegations of historical misuse of college property. The college will cooperate fully with Police Scotland as they conduct their investigations."

The spokesman also confirmed a staff member had been suspended after allegations concerning the "misuse" of college property. He added: "These allegations were investigated under new disciplinary procedures for activity which took place in June 2022. 

"Following the conclusion of the internal investigation, the college has informed Police Scotland. We cannot make any further comment on this matter at this time."