Harlech Community Council has formally apologised over the loss of £9,000 in taxpayers’ money after it fell victim to an online scam.
The council says it has now “tightened” its financial procedures after the incident saw the loss of around 10 percent of its budget.
Councillors informally apologised at a meeting earlier this month to some local residents who asked a series of questions about the council’s financial procedures; the timing of invoices and minutes and what exactly the money had been intended for.
Now a formal statement has been issued apologising to all Harlech residents. It says: “On behalf of Harlech Community Council we wish to take the opportunity to apologise to the residents of Harlech regarding the loss of the £9,000 rate payers money as a result of a scam that happened last December.
“Although an apology was given at the council meeting (4 September), where members of the public were in attendance, the community council would now like to extend this apology to those residents of Harlech that were not present at the meeting.
“Following this meeting of the Harlech Community Council it was decided, although the council’s financial procedures have been tightened in accordance with the Internal Auditor’s report, to form a sub committee to look into the way forward the council can work with regards to financial matters.”
The scam happened in December 2022. In the council’s January 2023 minutes, the treasurer stated that £9,000 cash had been taken in what appeared to be an “authorised push payment (APP) scam”. This is a type of fraud where a criminal tricks people into transferring money.
The incident had concerned an “advance payment” made to a person called Oluwafeni Odunuga.
It was said that this was “to carry out consultative work” for the council and an advance payment would be required.
In July, after the incident was publicised, the community council’s clerk Annwen Hughes, who is also a Plaid Cymru Gwynedd councillor for Harlech and Llanbed, and the chair of the Snowdonia National Park Authority/ Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri, said: “This matter has been dealt with by the community council and will not be discussed further.”
One resident who attended the 4 September meeting said: “It rather seems that local residents are losing confidence in the council, several turned up to ask questions at the meeting. ”
Audit Wales has been made aware of the issue and say it will look into this matter as part of the audit of the council. It stated: “Once we’ve confirmed the audit work has been completed for Harlech Community Council, we’ll be able to determine how to report our audit findings to the council.”