FORMER Bournemouth finance director claims she was told not to put concerns over a controversial outsourcing contract in writing for fear it would be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

An employment tribunal heard Liz Wilkinson's testimony of her time at Bournemouth Borough Council where she worked as Finance Director until January of this year.

Ms Wilkinson was suspended last October pending an investigation over her alleged conduct.

She claims that she was "expertly and covertly" forced from her role because she intended to expose the council's contract with external consultant Mouchel which she claims had lost somewhere in the region of half a million pounds through various breaches.

She told the hearing she had informed chief executive Tony Williams about Mouchel "failing to deliver their contractual obligations on a number of occasions".

But when asked why she hadn't put her concerns in writing she said:

"The reason I didn't commit those concerns to writing was that it had been impressed upon me from when I first started at Bournemouth that such sensitive matters should not be put in any form of electronic communication that could be subject to an FOI request," she told the tribunal.

She also claimed she was refused access to the council's internal computer systems and work emails upon her suspension.

She also said a report from Phil Walker, a Mouchel employee whom she'd asked to help with the Value For Money project, had gone missing and that her work phone and laptop had been wiped by the IT department.

She said: "I believe they did interfere with the evidence in this case. They were clearly up to something. It was incredibly mysterious and frightening. I was really scared. I thought they were capable of doing anything.

"I was deliberately kept silent and told I couldn't contact anybody. My staff were told they would be disciplined if they spoke to me."

When asked why some of her dates didn't add up she responded: "I had nothing to go on apart from my diary and if dates were wrong that's because it was all I had. It's not evidence I'm lying to this tribunal, that's why I'm here; because no one would listen to me before.

"During the first weeks and months I began to become increasingly concerned [about the situation with Mouchel]. Things appeared to be becoming worse and worse and worse."

"Those fears became such that the failures were so wide-spread and so endemic that you couldn't keep fire-fighting. We really needed to get to the bottom of things by doing a fully comprehensive study.

"I was just trying to do my job," she cried. "I'm afraid I haven't slept for months.

"I was trying to warn him we were at serious risk of being in breach of our own duties. As a result the public interest was not being properly served."

Bournemouth Council's representative, Andrew Burns QC, claimed Ms Wilkinson's attempts to whistle-blow were all a rouse to cover up allegations of bullying against her.

But Ms Wilkinson said she'd told three separate people of her plans - Simon Garlic, district auditor, Mike Cracknell, Unison representative, and Penny Badcoe who was commissioned to carry out the Value For Money study - shortly following her suspension.

"Mr Cracknell told me the rumours of what was being said in the workplace about my mental health and some really wide scurrilous lies," she said. "He said my position at the council was untenable and I would not get a fair hearing and Tony Williams was responsible for that. I could not understand the extreme nature of the abuse I had been subjected to."

"I was forced to take leave and kept out of the investigation. I fell into a carefully thought-out strategy. The way [Tony] stopped me was to destroy me as a person because he knew I was so well regarded and good at my job if I publicly declared my concerns I would have been listened to. He did it because of self interest and I was disregarded. I was being ruthlessly bullied. I was told I was a problem, all these people hated me but I wasn't told who or what I was supposed to do about it. That's what he did to me. I'm sorry I didn't realise this until after the event. When you're bullied expertly and covertly you don't see it coming and you don't know you're being manipulated."