Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Government civil servants pile on the expenses

While MPs are experiencing a further grilling over expenses, we find ourselves revisiting a former blog post regarding another development over an old WAG civil servant expenses scandal.

An investigation by expert auditors KPMG found 11% of expenses – totalling more than £290,000 – by staff at International Business Wales staff may have been in breach of policy.

The experts uncovered unusual expenses at the body, which promotes Wales as a destination for businesses.


They included:

  • the purchase of a first class flight (£6,125.63);
  • a monthly mobile phone bill of £1,946.83;
  • the electricity bill for a residential address (£345.22);
  • AA membership (£203.54);
  • furniture items including vases, candles and towels (£380.06);
  • an item of “personal care” (£45.30).
  • This is in addition to £150 spent on football kits and £553.87 paid for children’s textbooks in the 12 months to March.
  • A further £3,394.44 was spent on overseas hospitality for a Wales vs South Africa rugby match.
The follow-up investigation into the 781 transactions where there may have been breaches of policy will report by Christmas.

It is not expected that the police will be called in, but disciplinary action is likely and staff may be asked to repay expenditure.

The expenses revelations came on the same day that a major report by independent inward investment expert Glenn Massey strongly criticised the performance of IBW and its forerunner, the Welsh Development Agency, describing its record as “at best mixed”.

Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan said the Assembly Government would work “urgently” to address the issues raised in the report.

She also acknowledged the expenses investigation had an impact on staff morale.

The KPMG investigation team were not able to decide whether a further 817 transactions – worth more than £280,000 – were within the rules, due to vague policy or a lack of documentation.

The Permanent Secretary pledged to address ambiguities in expenses policies. Dame Gillian said the international wing of the Assembly Government was the area where the opportunity for misuse of expenses was highest.
It’s our highest risk area because people are travelling overseas, they work independently, and therefore if you were going to have things going wrong it’s
the sort of part of the organisation you would expect to have the biggest issues.
In short, not only was Rhodri Morgan lied to, but it appears that Gillian Morgan is knee-deep in a public money expenses scandal brought on by unscrupulous civil servants. Her quote "Arguing that it did not point to chronic failure in the organisation...This is not a sick part of the system. There is some stuff that needs doing and there are some further questions to be asked but it was not a report that made me have all the flesh falling off my bones and whatever." is a perfect example of someone not willing to face facts.

But Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said fears about the expense claims of IBW staff were well-founded.
In July we asked whether the huge amount of money being spent on expensive flights, top-class hotels and fine-dining was delivering a return for Welsh taxpayers,” she said.

The performance report confirms IBW’s failure to deliver adequate investment but the separate expenses report makes for astounding reading.

This report on the expenses of civil servants in IBW has proved our fears that there was a runaway culture of spending in the IBW, which Government was failing to monitor.

What we found most worrying about the expenses review is the amount of claims that have been made by IBW civil servants that are not part of the work that they do in promoting Wales as a destination for business.

The report shows that Government failed to implement effective policies, that policies on expenditure were not followed and that around 800 claims can still not be accounted for.

Together, the reports amount to a damning indictment of [Minister for Economy and Transport Ieuan Wyn Jones’] oversight of IBW.

We’re left wondering why this was allowed to happen for so long and what would have happened had we not raised our concerns earlier this year.

Two reports were commissioned into the assembly government-run International Business Wales (IBW) after a row over staff expenses which has led to further revelations.

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