A major inquiry into Edinburgh’s costly trams fiasco could be derailed before it has even begun by a tranche of missing files.
A former council leader has sensationally claimed she’ll be “surprised” if files documenting the troubled transport project haven’t gone missing.
Jenny Dawe claims it’s likely that key dossiers recording the £778million scheme’s rocky road to completion will have been destroyed after the collapse of the Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) group in 2007.
Without those files, she feels taxpayers will be denied “the whole picture” of how costs spiralled out of control.
Speaking after First Minister Alex Salmond announced there would be a judge-led inquiry, Ms Dawe said: “I was told some years ago that some records may have been destroyed, whether this was intentional or unintentional I don’t know, but it was to do with when TIE was broken up and moved out of their offices.
“As a result I’m not sure whether everything is there in black and white, as the present council claim.
“I don’t think there was any full scale or malign destroying of evidence but in terms of over time and with a high turnover of staff as there was with TIE, things will have been lost.”
Ms Dawe, who lost her seat at City Chambers over the debacle, has confirmed she will attend the public hearing into Edinburgh’s trams.
The probe has vowed to survey all documentation associated with the project to discover how key decisions were made, as the project both overspent and over-ran with last week’s launch finally arriving a full three years later than it was originally planned.
Ex-Edinburgh Lib Dem leader Dawe, 69, has declared that she has “nothing to hide” and welcomes the investigation, which will take place following September’s independence referendum.
Transport Minister Keith Brown is expected to name the judge running the inquiry this week.
Richard Jeffery, the chief executive of TIE, will attend, alongside the former company’s executive chairman Willie Gallagher and chairman David MacKay.
Ms Dawe believes that the public inquiry will focus on the contracts signed-off by organisers.
She said: “To my mind it hinges on the contracts. The cost and delays all route back to those contracts and you question what type of due diligence.
“I always got the feeling that the contractors were laughing at the holes in the contract. They had a far better understanding of it than TIE ever did.”
The Scottish Information Commissioner adjudged Edinburgh City Council to have broken the law in 2012 when they turned down a Freedom of Information request for tram documents, alleging that they had been destroyed.