Scottish Water investigated over claims it misled Scottish Parliament
A freedom of information (FOI) request by UNISON Scotland has revealed that Scottish Water may have misled a Scottish Parliament Committee over its PFI wastewater contracts.
An investigation into the company by UNISON Scotland found that Scottish Water does not hold full business cases (FBCs) for nine of its multi-million pound water and sewerage PFI contracts.
Scottish Water has now been ordered by the Scottish information commissioner Kevin Dunion to provide UNISON Scotland with full financial information on its contracts, over-ruling the company’s objections that this would substantially prejudice the confidentiality of its commercial or industrial information.
UNISON Scotland has welcomed the decision, but said the “scandalous” projects had been approved without any FBCs and that some key documents had been lost. It has also disputed claims by Scottish Water that it was not required to carry out FBCs for its early PFI projects.
UNISON’s Scottish organiser, Dave Watson, said: “The Scottish Government’s own website still to this day says that FBCs were published for two of the nine contracts and Scottish Water told MSPs that at least three existed, yet it has not been able to trace them.
“We also asked the then Scottish Executive for these documents and they too said they were not held, but at that time we assumed at least that Scottish Water would have them.”
UNISON said it will continue to pursue the “missing or non-existent FBCs” with the Scottish Government again.
The nine contracts, most of which run for 30 years, cost nearly £600M in capital costs and around £130M annually.
Dunion said the case demonstrates how important FOI legislation is extended to cover private companies, which provide public services, including privatised English water companies.
He added: “Scottish Water did not provide any reasoning as to why the disclosure of particular information in certain contracts appears not to have damaged Scottish Water’s interests while the disclosure of similar information in other contracts would, or would be likely to, prejudice those interests substantially.”
© Faversham House Ltd 2023 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.