Workforce, Pensions and Training

11.04.19

Council overpaid staff more than £800,000 as watchdog raises national concerns of ‘recurring weaknesses’ in financial control

A Scottish council made more than 800 salary overpayments totalling over £800,000 to current and former employees, Scotland’s spending watchdog has revealed.

A report from the Accounts Commission has raised concerns over “recurring weaknesses” in financial control at councils in Scotland which are dealing with annual fraud of £11.9m.

The report raises one alarming case study, when Renfrewshire Council made over 800 overpayments between April 2015 and February 2018 amounting to a total of £812,000.

Six overpayments exceeded £10,000, and one person received an extra £15,500 whilst an eighth of former employees were still paid after leaving the council “usually due to a delay in a department notifying Payroll Services staff someone had left.”

Whilst at the time of the external audit there were no documented procedures for preventing payroll overpayments, the council has since issued guidance for recovering the money – and by March last year, £350,000 of the overpayments had been recovered.

The report from the Accounts Commission raised several examples where money was lost, such as a £1.1m in fraud by a council officer who was later jailed for five years, and said robust scrutiny of financial management was “more important than ever.”

The commission said auditors are flagging concerns and “recurring weaknesses are becoming apparent,” particularly in processing information, reviews, and separating employee’s duties to prevent fraud.

It warned of “serious” consequences such as the loss of significant amounts of public money, impact on public services and reputation damage to local authorities.

Graham Sharp, the chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “Robust management and scrutiny of the finances at Scotland's councils is more important now than ever before.

“Councils face complex and challenging financial pressures, and rising demand for services. At the same time, budgets are tightening and there is significant uncertainty from factors such as the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

"There are many examples that the systems for managing finances in Scotland's councils are working effectively.”

He added: “However, councillors are ultimately responsible for scrutinising a council's use of public money, and they should seek assurances from council officers that rigorous systems and processes are in place to safeguard finances.”

The president of COSLA, Alison Evison, said the report was a timely reminder of the pressures facing local government but praised the scrutiny work of councils to date and said councillors take this role seriously.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

The National Audit Office's guide to cloud services

25/06/2019The National Audit Office's guide to cloud services

The National Audit Office’s digital transformation expert, Yvonne Gallagher, focuses on assessing the implementation of digital and related... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
The National Audit Office's guide to cloud services

25/06/2019The National Audit Office's guide to cloud services

The National Audit Office’s digital transformation expert, Yvonne Gallagher, focuses on assessing the implementation of digital and related change programmes. Cloud services can bring ... more >
Britain gets behind Boundless' Public Service Day campaign

24/06/2019Britain gets behind Boundless' Public Service Day campaign

Britain finally said ‘thank you’ to the country’s 5.37m public sector workers following a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of Public Service Day. The day, which took ... more >

the raven's daily blog

New rules to change the future of Social Value

05/06/2019New rules to change the future of Social Value

The government has announced the introduction of new rules to change the future of social value and make the way housing developers stump up the money for infrastructure both simpler and more transparent. These regulatory changes are designed to help achieve its ambition to deliver 300,000 extra homes per year by the mid-2020s.  ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News