Surrey County Council's waiving of normal procurement procedures for a £41,000 contract with leadership training charity Common Purpose made it difficult to refute allegations of cronyism, the authority's auditors have found.
The internal review, seen by Third Sector, says officials failed to set out the need to send four employees on a leadership course in 2008 or to assess alternative providers.
The review says this made it hard for the authority to demonstrate that the courses, for which the council paid Common Purpose £41,000, were value for money.
It also says that a number of senior council officers had previous dealings with Common Purpose, although there was no evidence that any had benefited personally from the Surrey contract.
But it says their successful application to waive normal procedures had led to allegations of cronyism that "though false, are difficult to refute".