On the 27th May 2011, the Daily Telegraph published a list of spending on council credit cards above a £500 threshold and it was with great interest that we perused the section detailing the £566,929 spent using Aberdeenshire Council credit cards.
Now for an organisation like the council there are many instances where payment using a credit card is convenient and justified, providing proper procedures for approval, accountability and reporting are in place. Many of the items listed would appear to be wholly legitimate such as HGV platings, bookings for school trips, travel etc. however there are others that could raise a few questions that we hope Aberdeenshire Council will see fit to answer in the near future.
Lets state up front that we are looking at the list as presented by the Daily Telegraph on the link above so we cant guarantee that this constitutes a perfect representation of the information the council provided. There could be transcription errors etc. This is, however, the information available to the public – we would hope that the council would see fit to correct any errors and, ultimately, publish this information relating to the use of public money on their own website.
There are purchases for considerable amounts of computers, cameras, camcorders, TVs, ipods and video games in the list (and even one stratocaster guitar) – we assume that proper checks and balances are in place to ensure that all this equipment is for legitimate council use …
Given that the council is unlikely to have an account with the apparently Australian supplier that provided £3,550.37 worth of Pom Poms in 2010 (go on, look it up), a credit card is indeed a convenient way to pay.
Interesting that we see the following item dated 28th August 2010 – £503.51 – to a vendor in The Netherlands with the description “Fraudulent Use of Purchase Card”. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence does it? How does this make it into the final list anyway?
In these days of austerity, should the council be booking tables at the Northern Star Awards Dinner at a cost of £1,932 in 2009 and £1,101 in 2010? Viewed by many as little more than an exercise in self congratulatory parochial backslapping orchestrated by the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, should council tax monies be spent on this at all? Who attended from the council? Why did they go? Don’t we (the Aberdeenshire taxpayers) already sponsor some of this event anyway? All subjects for further investigation in due course.
Of more concern perhaps are the 84 separate items listed totalling £70,257.96 for which there is “no description provided“, has the council effectively “redacted” these transactions or have they genuinely not recorded what they were?
Aberdeenshire Council has previously gone to considerable lengths to prevent details of invoices being made public in response to FoI requests citing staff cost as a reason not to provide details (See FoI request ACE/331613 for background).
With £70,257.96 in credit card transactions apparently recorded as “no description given” surely spending around £2000 (details here) on collating this information would be useful if it could help clarify what these items were?
They work for us – and we have a right to know how every penny is spent.