THREE Craigavon Borough Council employees have lost their appeal after a two-year investigation into alleged fraud at Portadown’s Fair Green amenity site.
The investigation, which cost a reported £250,000, began in the summer of 2010 when five men were suspended on full pay. One left on medical grounds during the course of the probe and a fifth case is still on-going.
The investigation started in controversy, when an outside firm was called in to set up a ‘covert’ operation, which involved the installation of CCTV cameras, sound equipment and a ‘router’ device.
It happened on a Sunday, but the operation was recorded on the council’s own security system, it led to meetings between union and staff and the operation was delayed.
Casual labour was used during the two-year investigation and the men were dismissed earlier this year, pending an appeal which went against them. The union, the GMB, spoke of a tribunal as a final move, but that is doubtful as the men would have to face their own legal costs.
The dismissals were announced at a special meeting of the council earlier this year, following the probe carried out by senior staff. And council members - with an eye on the rates - are profoundly unhappy at the spiralling costs.
The appeal was heard last month and the dismissals were made final following the appeal. A source said the time scale and costs of the investigation were “unacceptable and would not have taken nearly as long in the private sector”.