CARDIFF and Vale University Health Board has come under heavy criticism after a report by the Wales Audit Office found that their dealings with an HR consultancy firm were "fundamentally compromised."

The health board entered into a contract with RKC Associates in November 2014 which was subsequently extended on two occasions, in June 2015 and again in February 2016.

Findings from the report, issued by the Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas, said there were major failings with the handling of all three contracts, as well as with the recruitment process which resulted in a director of RKC, Raj Chana, being appointed to a senior position within the health board.

In summary, the report suggests that payments made by the health board to RKC since 2014 were potentially unlawful.

The auditor general concluded that the health board's conduct in procuring contracts with RKC: "fell well short of the standard that the public has a right to expect of a public body."

It further suggests that "key decision-makers compromised the integrity of the procurement process," and that the appointment of Ms Chana to the role of director of workforce and organisational development, "lacked transparency and was poorly documented."

This latter criticism refers to an incident in which the health board proceeded with a recruitment process to fill the aforementioned role, despite Ms Chana being the only candidate.

Ms Chana had also failed to apply for the role when it was originally advertised and had actually previously been responsible for overseeing the exercise. She would also have had prior access to a number of the assessment questions before being interviewed.

Cardiff and Vale Health Board issued a statement saying they have "undertaken a review of current practices and processes."

Health board CEO Len Richards, who was not in post at the time specified in the report, said: "It is my task to ensure that all staff comply with our policies and procedures and strengthen them where necessary.

"As CEO I do not condone the failures of the senior members of staff identified in the WAO report and we are working with the board and internal audit and are taking all of the necessary actions to ensure this doesn’t happen again."

Mr Richards also added that the health board would be looking to take action against the individuals identified in the report.

"There may be some disciplinary action as a result of this but it is too early to say in what guise this will take as the key people involved have now left the organisation. I can assure you that the references to the internal processes will be closely scrutinised and we will take the proportionate and necessary action."