Seven years Folkestone & Hythe District Council have hidden, and failed to publish financial data for their Government Procurement Cards (read credit card), in clear breach of the Transparency Code 2015 (TC 2015).
Government Procurement Cards are used by our Council to purchase low value goods or services where convenient eg website purchases, travel, accommodation, subsistence and general equipment etc. To be crystal clear these are purchases made on credit cards (used when there isn’t a formal contract in place).
This data must be published separately from the payment data over £500 and purchase order data over £5,000. But alas for the last seven years, the Council have failed to comply with the statutory Transparency Code 2015.
In this time, neither the external auditor Grant Thornton, or the Internal Auditor, East Kent Audit Partnership have picked up on this failing, which does not bode well as they may well have missed other things as well.
At Paragraph 30 of the TC 2015 it states:
Government Procurement Card transactions
30. Local authorities must publish details of every transaction on a Government
Procurement Card. For each transaction, the following details must be published:
Date of the transaction
Local authority department which incurred the expenditure
Value Added Tax that cannot be recovered
Summary of the purpose of the expenditure, and
Merchant category (eg. computers, software etc)
To be clear, Thanet District Council, Dover District Council and Canterbury City Council for example, publish this data separately from the other financial data Payment data above £500, Purchase Orders above £5,000, as they must, but Folkestone & Hythe District Council do not.
We know that the Council have these cards, as when we have inspected the accounts, this financial information has been there, for buying train tickets, computer cables, Amazon purchases and the like.
Now the three officer responsible for this seven year failing are all statutory officers. They are:
Dr Susan Priest – Head of Paid Service & Chief Executive (Salary,
including fees and allowances £136,714 – 2020/21)
Charlotte Spendley – Director of Corporate Services & s151 Officer (responsible for the money) Salary, including fees and allowances £105,936 – 2020/21
Amandeep Khroud – Assistant Director – Governance, Law and Regulatory Services – Salary, including fees and allowances £95,007 – 2020/21
Now given that we have and continue to raise the issues around contract irregularities and financial irregularities, this failure by Folkestone & Hythe District Council to publish seven years worth of data must be urgently raised by any of our 30 elected councillors, but will any of them have the temerity and/or courage to raise this very large and long running failure in transparency.
As of the 16 March 2022, there were 24 active procurement cards being used by staff, according to the East Kent Audit Partnership report (page 8). As of that date The Council’s website and the staff intranet did not include the current version of the Procurement Strategy. Nor was there any substantive evidence of monitoring being carried out to ensure compliance with the strategy. The lack of monitoring the current cards in use is due to the lack of adequate staff cover during periods of annual leave, and sickness, so that the financial verification processes they carry out on the corporate credit cards, don’t continue to be carried out each month. This is a serious issue of non compliance.
Staff are purchasing items, making bookings using the procurement cards in their name rather than in the council’s name, which may well cause allegations of abuse to be raised, due to their failure to follow the processes and procedures. There appears to be failure by staff to gain receipts, especially VAT receipts to support all purchases made with a corporate credit card, and this failing means the council will not being able to reclaim the VAT.
It does ultimately fall to the Audit & Governance Committee, but we strongly suspect they will not rock the boat too much, and ask for this data – all seven years of it – to be published.
It is clear that the Peter Principle is alive and well at Folkestone & Hythe District Council
The Shepway Vox Team
Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime