HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money has been spent using council credit cards without proper checks being carried out.
An internal audit has revealed “significant weaknesses” in the way Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) controls how the cards are used by staff.
Auditors said the weaknesses meant there was potential for the cards to be used for fraud.
They found that 41 per cent of transactions worth £374,000 had not been approved by managers, 21 per cent totalling £163,000 had not been reviewed by card holders and 21 card holders no longer worked for the council.
Cllr Ben Powell, chairman of the council’s public accounts scrutiny panel, said: “As far as I am concerned, there can be no excuses from the council.
“This is a cock-up plain and simple and it should not have been allowed to occur at a time when the executive should be looking carefully at how every penny is spent.”
CWaC had about 490 active cards at the time of the review with officers spending about £150,000 every month on the cards.
Auditors reviewed more than 10,000 transactions spread over six months and found:
l Roles and responsibilities for the system were not clear and agreed.
l No formal policy existed to explain the rules and regulations for using of the cards to staff.
l There was significant non-compliance with monitoring and approval requirements.
l Some transactions were for more than £1,000 despite the cards being designed for low value purchases.
l Cards were being used to buy from non-corporate suppliers including £50,000 spent on stationery.
l Former council workers – including some who left in 2010 – still had cards.
[l Application forms were not always signed by managers and some card holders had not signed the conditions of use agreement.
Auditors allocated the lowest possible score to the internal controls that were in place and agreed 10 recommendations with managers.
An action plan has now been implemented and the audit team is monitoring its performance.
Cllr Powell, Labour opposition spokesman for audit and governance, has asked the council to provide him with a full list of the transactions.
He said: “There is no suggestion that any employee has behaved improperly. However, what is clear is that there were not sufficient measures in place to safeguard the use of council credit cards.
“I am pleased this issue has now been examined in detail by the council’s audit department and I will be keeping a close eye on the situation to ensure that this issue is handled properly in future.
“I have also requested a list of transactions during the period in question, which I will be examining very carefully and asking further questions if necessary.”