A safety firm were given a contract to test council houses for asbestos – just months after being prosecuted for failing to remove the potentially lethal substance on one of their own sites.
Exova (UK) Limited won the tender to test homes across South Ayrshire.
But the Post can reveal the same company admitted months earlier to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations Act.
Despite a fine and heavy criticism from the Health and Safety Executive, bosses at South Ayrshire still handed the firm a contract worth £155,000.
Now they insist that they had no idea about Exova’s brush with the law – even though a simple Google search would have revealed the stark truth.
Exova were sacked less than a month into their stint with the council following “anomalies” in their surveys. But council bosses say they acted in good faith to employ the firm after the due diligence process was performed by Scotland Excel, an outside body, who screen companies for local authorities.
The agency’s asbestos tender requires firms such as Exova to meet strict criteria on safety and the latest legislation.
But the firm, who were blasted by the HSE during their court appearance in April, were not flagged up as a potential risk.
They were fined £36,000 for failing to remove damaged asbestos at one of their own sites.
After the case at Newcastle Magistrates Court, HSE inspector Andrew Woodhall, said Exova “needlessly and inexplicably chose to put their employees at risk.”
But those warnings apparently didn’t reach the agency, who provide councils including South Ayrshire with key contract advice.
A spokesman for Scotland Excel said: “To ensure that suppliers continue to meet requirements of the framework, Scotland Excel has implemented a programme which reviews contract compliance and performance at regular intervals.
“In the case of the asbestos services framework, reviews had been scheduled annually for the first calendar quarter of the year so we had not yet become aware of the prosecution of one of the framework suppliers by the Health & Safety Executive in April 2012.
“As a result of recent developments, we are now reviewing matters with the supplier and are taking steps to ensure such information is identified more promptly in future.”
But those assurances have come too late for South Ayrshire bosses, who have been forced to employ a new asbestos contractor.
The council’s corporate resources chief, David Alexander, said: “Our primary concern has always been the health and wellbeing of our employees and our tenants and we took immediate steps to employ an alternative provider to resurvey the properties that had been surveyed by Exova.”
Now many within council headquarters are starting to demand answers.
Former housing spokesman Douglas Campbell, said: “Regardless of the information provided by Scotland Excel, it is still the council’s responsibility to ensure that contractors can do the job for which they tender.
“Clearly this company has slipped through the net and it has now given the council a major problem in terms of costs.”