More than £50,000 of public money has been paid to companies not listed in a council’s register of official contracts, an investigation has found.

Auditors found that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead paid the money to more than 169 companies not on its contract register over the last financial year. One councillor said the finding was a ‘concern’ at a time when the council’s finances are under strain.

Councillor Gary Reeves said: “That is a large amount of money. It’s an extremely high risk – it’s an exposure to our financial expenditure which we know is our highest risk factor right now.”

The register is a list of companies that the council has contracts with to provide services. But an audit found that the council’s register is ‘outdated and incomplete.’

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It also said that the payments to companies not on the register suggests that some contracts may not have been recorded.

The findings were reported to councillors on the Royal Borough’s audit committee, which met on Tuesday, June 4.

Elizabeth Griffiths – the council director in charge of spending – said the finding didn’t mean that government rules on paying for services had been broken.

But she said it showed that contracts might not have been logged with the council’s procurement team – and that staff were being trained to improve this.

She said: “That doesn’t mean that those contracts weren’t compliant – that they didn’t go through proper processes. It means they’ve been put in place but haven’t actually been given to procurement to put on the contract register.”