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NEWPORT: Unsatisfactory use of purchasing cards

NEWPORT City Council staff’s use of purchasing cards has been deemed “unsatisfactory”.

An internal audit review found that “prohibited” and “inappropriate” purchases were made by cardholders.

The review also found VAT was incorrectly applied and no receipts were provided for some transactions. Additionally, some purchases were made by those who weren’t a designated card holder.

Strategic director at the council, Rhys Cornwall, who has overall responsibility for the purchasing card system, said no criminal or fraudulent activity had taken place.

At an audit and governance scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday May 25, Cllr Stephen Cocks said: “If card supervisors were carrying out regular checks then this wouldn’t have happened to begin with.”

There are 184 cardholders in the council, they can spend a maximum of £100 per transaction and have a monthly limit of £5,000.

Meirion Rushworth, head of finance, said the council’s policy on purchasing cards had been changed to be “more direct on what is acceptable”.

The internal audit included a “high-level review” across all transactions, in addition to a “detailed testing” of a sample of 227 transactions, totalling £893,889.

This sample represents 18% of the council’s total purchasing cards expenditure and approximately 1% of the total number of transactions.

Committee members were told new training on the purchasing policy is taking place from May 15 until June 23.

Chair of the committee, Gareth Chapman, said if training is not completed by June 23, then the employees should be ‘cut off’.

Refresher training on the policy will now be required every two years. Additionally, new employees, with access to a card, will be required to complete training.

As part of the policy changes, the council is clamping down on parking or speeding fines. From June, employees will not be permitted to use the council’s purchasing cards to pay for fixed penalty notices.