Sunlight is, as they say, the best disinfectant.
Project Fingal, the grandiosely named collaboration between HIE, CnES and Storas has led to the creation of Lochboisdale Development Ltd to take forward the marine and seaweed related plans.
In June, Marine Biopolymers confirmed that Angus MacMillan was an advisor to Marine Biopolymers Ltd. Mr MacMillan is, as we all know, also the MD of Storas and one of the directors of Lochboisdale Development Ltd.
But, ooops, what is this that seems to have been omitted from the Register of Interest in Storas?
On 10 August 2011 Mr MacMillan became a director of Marine Biopolymers, and the most recent Annual Return shows that he owns 403,333 shares in Marine Biopolymers (or 16.67% of the company). It is not clear when, or how, these shares were acquired.
With Minutes of Lochboisdale Development Ltd not being in the public domain, it is unclear if the new financial interest has ever been disclosed, as it doesn't seem to have been disclosed to Storas at subsequent meetings.
So we now have the position where £10m in public money is going to a "community project" that is being run by a person with a financial interest in the seaweed test site at Crooked River, and a financial interest in the company developing site, and the Chairman of the community company, and its subsidiaries.
If all the business was conducted openly and with publicly accessible minutes, then it would be a different matter, but with secrecy and obtuse answers to simple questions, it looks like there is something to hide.
Now, let me make it very clear for the benefits of the legal profession, that there is no suggestion of impropriety; and that the other directors were fully aware of the position, as required by the various Companies Acts; and there is no suggestion that the updating of the Register of Interest as anything but an oversight; and that there were no undisclosed conflicts arising at any meetings of Storas or Lochboisdale Development; and that both CnES and HIE were fully aware of the new business relationship.
However, going forward, there is an enormous question over the ability of Mr MacMillan to be in virtual control over almost every aspect of this investment, given that there are numerous potential conflicts which may impede the development going forward.
I think the other directors need to seek independent legal advice - to make sure they do not accidentally fall foul of the law should a Chairman's conflict of interest (accidentally) arise - and the funders need to review issues of probity and transparency, as a matter of urgency.
After all, we wouldn't want cries of "self interest" to delay the rejuvenation of Lochboisdale, or cast unnecessary aspersions on the work of Storas.