POLICE Scotland have created a special unit to crack down on corruption in Scotland’s public sector.
A new Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) will tackle gangsters attempting to take advantage of the public purse by infiltrating local authorities and through public-sector contracts.
Organisations including the Scottish Government, health boards and quangos will receive advice on how to protect themselves against organised crime.
One of the team’s leaders said public sector workers with drug problems were prone to being blackmailed by ruthless gangsters.
Police have recently been called in to probe Edinburgh’s property repairs scandal, with former staff at a council department responsible for public buildings being arrested.
In 2011 senior IT worker David Dinham was jailed after stealing £500,000 from his employers the National Library of Scotland, and arts body Creative Scotland admitted in August £100,000 had been spent on a credit card stolen from the organisation.
One part of the team, made up of specially trained officers, will focus on the public sector, and the other will aim to prevent corruption within Police Scotland itself.
Detective Superintendent Sean Scott will lead the team that will focus on the public sector.
Det Supt Scott said: “People are well aware of media exposés of corrupt practices in parts of the public sector.
“It has primarily been down south, but we are not immune to it up here.
“We have to ensure public money is not being misused or siphoned off.
“We will be offering advice and expertise, not dictating what organisations do.”
He continued: “If staff are approached by organised criminals they need to know where to go and have the confidence to report it. Substance misuse is a known vulnerability because it can be used to coerce or threaten a person.
“We want to ensure that if people have any suspicion of corruption they report it.
“They can report it direct to us confidentially or go through their own organisation’s helpline.”
Police insist public sector corruption is not rife, but Scotland has been hit by criminals helping themselves to huge sums from the public purse.
Creative Scotland said the theft of their credit card initially went undetected, allowing £100,000 to be spent on drinks, flights and hotels.
Dinham, in charge of a £1.8million project to store the National Library’s digital archive, stole half a million in a swindle described as “sophisticated and complex.”
Last year 15 people were charged in connection with alleged fraud at Edinburgh council’s public building repairs department, including four former employees.
A separate police probe into the city’s Property Conservation department found no criminality, but found council workers had accepted hospitality from contractors.
Organised crime is estimated to generate at least £9.2m annually for criminals in Scotland.
Det Supt Scott continued: “A big issue is the lack of intelligence.
“We need to know where it ?is happening across Scotland. We are not saying this is rife in the public sector.
“Corruption has been with us since time immemorial. Historically, some individuals in positions of power have abused that power.”
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said: “The move to a single police service in Scotland has presented us with an ideal opportunity to introduce consistency and co-ordination on a national scale but also the chance to work with our partners in the public sector to strengthen the barriers against corruption.”