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Bureaucratic blunder saw Highland Council pay one former employee for 33 months AFTER leaving

By Scott Maclennan

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Blunder saw Highland Council pay one former employee for 33 months – after leaving.
Blunder saw Highland Council pay one former employee for 33 months – after leaving.

Highland Council has revealed that one former employee continued to be paid for almost three years after leaving the organisation in a major bureaucratic blunder that saw past and present staff receive excess payments totalling £863,000.

Now those affected face salary reductions, debt recovery and legal action to return the cash as the council confirmed that it has only managed to claw back “approximately” £200,000.

Earlier this month, The Inverness Courier revealed that the council’s auditors had confirmed a series of overpayments to a total of 593 individuals because the local authority is not checking “to confirm the existence of its staff”.

The surprise finding is a massive blow at the worst possible time as the cash-strapped council has to cut £60 million from its budget this month despite getting £26.7 million more from the Scottish Government.

Last year it had to cut £54 million, and in September it came up £233 million short for vital infrastructure projects.

Now we can reveal that one former staff member raked in £42,272 net over a 33-month period which was the highest overpayment to one person. A total of 602 payments were made in situation described by regional MSP Edward Mountain as “beyond belief”.

A council spokesman said: “The majority of those who have been overpaid are still in the council’s employment and therefore recovery is being made through existing recovery procedures.

“It should be noted that almost half of the overpayments (48 per cent) represents overpayment amounts for individual employees and former employees of less than £500 gross.

“Approximately £200,000 has now been recovered and recovery for all outstanding debts is being actively pursued through a range of salary deductions, direct payments in full, and debt recovery processes, including legal routes.”

The chairman of the council's resources committee Derek Louden said: “The council has a duty to claim back overpayments and will exhaust all routes to recover all outstanding debt, which does include legal action where appropriate.

“I am assured that reviewed processes will be put in place to mitigate against such significant overpayments arising in the future.

“An internal audit will be looking at relevant processes in detail and any recommendations will be actioned and an update will be brought to a future audit committee.”

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