SCOTTISH Borders Council (SBC) conducts its business in an “open and transparent manner”, according to an audit report.

The 2019/20 report, produced in October, was written by watchdog Audit Scotland.

SBC was criticised by at least one councillor in the same month for “secret” contract dealings – but the external auditor states the council is “committed” to transparency.

“There is an increasing focus on how public money is used and what is achieved,” states the report, underneath the category ‘openness and transparency’.

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“There are increasing public expectations for more openness and transparency as citizens want to understand how public money is used and to support their participation in local service design and delivery.

“A transparent organisation shows the basis for its decisions and shares information about performance and outcomes, including when targets have and have not been achieved as well as how it is using its resources such as money, people and assets.

“There is evidence from several sources which demonstrate the council’s commitment to transparency.”

The report, covering the year ending March 2020, was made publicly available last month.

It states: “Members of the public can attend meetings of the full council, executive and other committees.

“Minutes of these committee meetings and supporting papers are readily available on the council’s website.

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“The council and committees sometimes consider business in private where there is a need to consider commercially sensitive information.

“The need to consider business in private should be subject to regular review.

“The council’s website allows the public to access a wide range of information including the register of members’ interests, current consultations and surveys, and how to make a complaint.

“Overall, we concluded that the council conducts its business in an open and transparent manner.”

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SBC paid Audit Scotland an audit fee of £280,360 for the investigation into its accounts.

Audit Scotland has come to the same conclusion about the council’s openness and transparency in each of the last four annual reports.

SBC was accused of secrecy in October by Tweeddale East representative Stuart Bell, who criticised the process leading up to a new IT deal.

The agreement saw the council extending its contract with Canadian company CGI until 2040.

The council told the Border Telegraph at the time that “we have no secrets”.

Details of the deal were originally withheld, but they were ultimately released following a Freedom of Information request.