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MANAGEMENT INVESTIGATION AGREED AS HIGHLAND COUNCIL REVIEWS HARBOURS' OPERATION

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The Highland Council is to conduct a management investigation as a result of the findings of an internal audit into...
The Highland Council is to conduct a management investigation as a result of the findings of an internal audit into its fishery harbours operations, which was commissioned by the director of roads and transport and identified a number of management shortcomings in the way the business was administered.

The council's fishery harbour management board, which is already trying to reduce debt, will now use the audit findings to improve

control of the business.

These actions were agreed yesterday by members of the roads and

transport committee, who were assured that corrective action had been agreed on 29 of the 33 points raised in the audit report and that the fishery harbours management board would be asked to resolve four outstanding matters where agreement over future action had not yet been confirmed.

Convener David Green said the management investigation would be carried out on behalf of chief executive Arthur McCourt by the director of corporate services and the director of finance. The outcome would be reported to the fishery harbours management board.

He stressed that the audit report, commissioned by the director of roads and transport, had uncovered no suggestion of impropriety on the part of any member of staff.

He said: 'Our staff aim to make the harbours commercially viable in

difficult conditions, providing a good service to fishermen. The problem seems to have been that we have not had adequate administrative systems in place to cope with the demands of a large commercial concern, turning over£7.4 million of income per year.

'For some time, elected members have expressed concern about control and stewardship of debt recovery as well as accountability of how some of our fishery harbours operate and I believe that we are now on the road to sorting things out. Already action has been taken to improve our efficiency and the review of our procedures will aim to build on this.'

Roads and transport chairman Charlie King accepted that the internal report had identified some shortcomings in practices and administration.

He said: 'We have to hold our hands up and say we did not do things as

efficiently as we should. However, we now know what was going wrong and we are acting on the findings of our own internal audit team to improve practices and procedures. We run a big operation, involving the supply of 1 million gallons of fuel each month, and must ensure it runs as efficiently as possible.'

The fishery harbours management board, he said, would be focusing firmly on the efficient management of its harbours and to ensure speedy recovery of debt. A new computer system should help significantly in more speedily recovering debt.

The council would be reviewing its 10-year fuel supply contract at Lochinver and Kinlochbervie in September next year to ensure the council got best value from the service. The supply is presently provided on the council's behalf by local agents.

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