FIVE councillors have been investigated for fraud - because they forgot to fill in a form.

The unnamed members of Southend Council were scrutinised by auditing firm PKF after failing to declare their links to private companies or bodies.

All five councillors ignored the initial form and then two reminder letters, prompting the auditor to launch an investigation into their backgrounds.

A spokesman for PKF said: “There is a risk that a related party transaction may not be disclosed in the related party note in the financial statements.

“To mitigate this risk, we have a completed a company search on these councillors to identify any potential relationships with companies that may need to be disclosed in the financial statements.”

Councillors are required to complete a form every year detailing their connections to private firms or community groups which do business with or receive grants from the council.

The process is designed to ensure no politicians are unfairly siphoning cash from the authority.

Councillors are allowed to have links with outside bodies and even make money from the council through private businesses.

However, they must declare the links clearly so they can be scrutinised by auditors to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent prudently.

None of the five councillors investigated by PKF were found to have any dubious links, but the auditor slapped their wrists for sparking the doubt in the first place.

The PKF spokesman added: “The council should endeavour to ensure that declaration forms are received from all councillors in the future.”

One councillor, who did not want to be named, criticised the “foolishness” of colleagues.

The councillor said: “We do get a lot of paperwork to fill in, so it is easy to miss some.

“But it’s more important than ever at the moment to ensure the council is seen to be acting correctly with people’s money.

“To not act despite two reminder letters is pretty foolish.”