Random checks will be carried out on Dundee council workers’ expenses after auditors found “significant weaknesses” in its claims system.
Workers have pocketed tens of thousands of pounds in extra travel and subsistence payments, with the number of claims more than doubling, since the roll out of the My View system started in 2018.
Auditors found council managers had “authorised claims without consideration”, agreed to claims that were larger than previously agreed limits and “routinely” signed off on payments without any supporting receipts.
Cost control measures to limit payments had also been manually overridden to authorise larger payouts.
Council corporate services boss Greg Colgan has already intervened to reduce the number of “super users ” with full access to the system and pledged to bring in a “clear, considered and standardised” guide by the end of the year.
Liberal Democrat councillor Fraser Macpherson said he was “perturbed” to learn of the issues.
“Quite frankly, this is public money. We need the assurances that managers are looking out,” he said.
Conservative councillor Derek Scott asked if officers were recovering payments from staff members.
He was told managers had deliberately over-ridden cost control limits in the system to approve payments larger than those agreed in council policies.
Labour councillor Richard McCready said: “If people are due this then that is a good thing but does the audit convince us that this is a good thing?”
Pamela Redpath, internal audit senior manager, said in her report the “principal conclusion drawn from this review is that there are significant weaknesses in the system which must be addressed”.
She flagged three main areas on concern – unclear and fragmented guidance for using the system, the number of “super users” who had the power to alter expense claims and the process for reviewing claims.
She said in the report: “Managers are responsible for reviewing and authorising MyView expense claims. This includes checking mileage, compliance with policy and the submitted receipts.
“Managers expressed an inconsistent level of diligence as part of their review, with some authorising all claims without consideration.
“Sample testing and the use of data analytics identified that claims exceeding policy limits and with missing or illegible receipts have routinely been authorised.”
She said: “The practice of submitting and authorising claims exceeding policy limits is relatively common.”
“To mitigate the risk of incorrect or fraudulent claims being paid and encourage a culture of robust and effective manager first review, a risk based secondary review of a sample of claims should be introduced.”
Mr Colgan said the new system was easier to use than the previous one, leading to more claims.
He said: “We have been very clear that it is a management and leadership responsibility to ensure each claim has the appropriate back up.”