For the last six years Kent County Council have not published credit notes in their published Invoices over £250. The Local Government Transparency Code has made the publishing of credit notes mandatory for all Councils since 2011.
So that means for the last six years not a single officer or elected member of KCC, including the Leader of KCC – Paul Carter or his trusted lieutenant John Simmons (pictured) Cabinet member for Finance & Procurement have not noticed or taken any interest in how KCC spend taxpayers money.
I have notified KCC and they say they will be rectify this matter as soon as they can
However, what is very concerning about all this, is within the Invoices over £250 data, one can see double payments to many many companies, 347 to be exact.
Duplicate supplier payments usually occur when a supplier invoice is “accidentally” presented twice, entered twice onto the accounts payable system and paid twice without internal controls or human controls spotting the error. In such cases the supplier’s invoice reference will appear against two different internal system reference numbers (the unique numbers generated by KCC’s accounting software system to maintain the audit trail from invoice to payment).
In KCC’s published payment data for 2016 seven examples of apparent duplicate payments were identified in which the council’s internal reference number was duplicated in a second payment with a later date. Normally this would be impossible because once an invoice has been paid in full, the accounting software sets the open amount to zero and there is nothing left to pay against that invoice so it physically cannot be paid a second time. A single invoice might be paid in instalments however, in which case each instalment record might retain the same internal “parent” reference number. But split payments would usually be split into more than two instalments – like utility bills split into ten or twelve instalments. Also instalments are usually separated by a whole number of months, or quarters. The time between the first and second payments for the examples identified in 2016 were much shorter and irregular, sometimes only a few days apart.
Below are the top 25 suppliers whose internal reference number was duplicated in a second payment with a later date. The grand total is over £7.5 million pounds. This is very worrying as it raises the possibility of fraud
£7.5 million pounds may be small beer when considered against KCC overall budget, but it is taxpayers money and elected members are responsible for it. I do not wish to enter a building if elected, where even the remotest possibility of kickbacks/fraud are happening, nor do I believe does any other candidate, Cllrs have a bad enough reputation as it is. Hence I have written to Andy Wood (pictured) KCC Corporate Director of Finance; which includes audit and risk to get him and his team to look into this as a matter of urgency.
The only way to establish the truth about the double payments is to audit the actual payments leaving KCC’s bank accounts for those suppliers affected and compare them with the corresponding invoice values on the archived supplier invoice documents themselves.
If even only some of the examples identified are real overpayments, then the matter is extremely serious because it would point either to grave control issues in the accounting software that have gone unnoticed for years, or systematic manipulation by one or more people within the organisation, presumably acting in collusion with the beneficiary suppliers.
After spending several days looking at this data the conclusions I have drawn are:
There is evidently no reconciliation or sanity checking done at KCC on the quality or accuracy of the “open data” published for the public’s benefit. This is consistent with two other observations:
that an unknown number of “redacted” payments are withheld each month rather than published with just the beneficiaries’ names redacted – an obvious control weakness,
KCC does not publish credit notes, contrary to the requirements of the Transparency Code which is a statutory requirement.
The public can place little reliance on the data they are given – which would tend to discourage them from engaging with their local authority. Encouraging greater engagement with software developers, “armchair auditors” etc. was the whole point of the transparency agenda launched in 2010. Producing poor quality data the public can’t trust makes the whole exercise almost pointless.
Duplicate payments to the sum of over £7.5 million is very worrying. If I am elected on May 4th I will continue my investigation into this matter with Mr Wood and ensure that the checking and publishing of the data is done properly and is correct when published for the public to inspect and that double payments to suppliers are all but eradicated.
Vote Rylands May 4th
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All the information above is my own and does not represent the views of the Shepwayvox Team who have kindly allowed me to use their blogsite.