New Forest District Council has said its duty to protect public funds is "taken very seriously" after two former employees were jailed for fraud.

Kate Ryan, Chief Executive said the council "actively cooperated with the authorities" since the deceit of Mark Diaper and Richard Cullen was discovered in 2018. 

The pair were jailed for a combined seven and a half years on Thursday after they both admitted charges of bribery and fraud. 

The court heard how Cullen was handing out contracts in exchange for bribes to All Type Roofing which his friend and former council employee, Mark Diaper worked for.

Cullen went on to make £37,000 from the fraud which also saw the council pay over the odds for maintenance work. 

Daily Echo: New Forest District Council offices.New Forest District Council offices. (Image: NQ)

Diaper received £125,000 from the £233,000 worth of fraudulent contracts that were given out. 

The judge questioned the decision by the council to hire Cullen - given that he had previously been convicted of dishonesty offences - but the council CEO said the authority has "stringent processes and protocols in place to prevent such occurrences. 

Responding to the sentence, Kate Ryan added: "We routinely review our anti-fraud processes to ensure they are robust, and we have a thorough candidate vetting process for recruitment, staff training and information, and ways for people to report any suspicions.

“This case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of vigilance and accountability.

"As Chief Executive, it is both disheartening and unacceptable that such actions have taken place within our organisation.

"Our officers are deeply committed to public service and hold the values of integrity and transparency, and so to have these values compromised by the actions of these two individuals is profoundly disappointing.”

READ MORE: New Forest District Council worker gave out dodgy contracts

The council is expected to conduct another review now the criminal case has concluded and will produce a full report for its audit committee.

The CEO added that the council is "satisfied to see the matter has now concluded with prison sentences" adding that incidents of this type are "extremely rare".

Sentencing the pair, Judge Peter Henry said Cullen had a responsibility to make sure taxpayers money was "properly accounted for", adding: "The taxpayer or ratepayer has been defrauded and a cash-strapped local authority deprived of resources."

Cullen, 55, of Francis Street, Luton was jailed for five years. 

Diaper, 34, of International Way, Southampton was sentenced to 32 months in prison.