FIFE Council’s head of finance has defended a multi-million pound credit card bill following claims that staff used taxpayers’ money to make cash withdrawals from high street banks.
Conservative MSP for mid Scotland and Fife Liz Smith has written to chief executive Ronnie Hinds to ask how the local authority managed to run up a bill of over £4,290,000 on credit cards since 2007.
Using Freedom of Information legislation, she found out how much almost every council in Scotland had spent on credit cards - sums that ranged from just £507 in East Dunbartonshire to a whopping £44,320,000 in Stirling.
Ms Smith described Fife Council’s expenditure as ‘extremely high’ compared with other local authorities of a similar size and population - and said that transactions showed thousands of pounds worth of unidentified cash withdrawals from high street banks.
She said she is seeking a review of the council’s policy on the use of credit cards and the accounting of such expenditure.
However, Keith O’Donnell, Fife’s head of financial services, said that the cards in question were not credit cards, but procurement cards.
“It’s important to note that council staff do not use credit cards: this data relates to government procurement cards, also known as purchasing cards,” he declared.
“These are only issued to staff where service management teams agree they are necessary to do the job.
“Within services, every transaction is coded and approved by a budget holder so the details of all spend is monitored monthly.
“Because some teams do need the flexibility to buy things with cash, using purchasing cards to withdraw money is more cost effective than having lots of bank accounts, each incurring bank charges and requiring staff time to administer. Using procurement cards has also virtually eliminated the need for petty cash in offices.”