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Banking blunder sees person overpaid almost £300,000 by Fife Council

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A monumental banking blunder resulted in a member of the public being paid a six-figure sum in error by Fife Council.

Instead of receiving weekly payments of £59.95 the person repeatedly pocketed a whacking £59,395, due to a typing mistake.

By the time the gaffe was spotted they had received five of the payments during July and August, amounting to almost £298,000.

The massive overpayment, understood to be linked to health and social care, was discovered during budget monitoring by finance staff.

Most of the money has been recovered but more than £12,000 has yet to be returned to council coffers.

The recipient of the cash has now been asked to repay it in instalments.

Police were not involved in the investigation.

A source told The Courier: “This raises many questions.

“How could amounts like this be paid out without the authority of a senior employee?”

North East Fife Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said the blunder was “concerning” and called for an assurance that everything possible was being done to prevent it happening again.

“Although everyone can make a mistake, this is a hefty one,” he said.

“The majority of the funds have been recovered but it is concerning that it took so long for the system to pick up this error.

“We need a full explanation from the chief executive of the council with details of why this was not identified earlier and what will be done to make sure the system is more robust in future.”

According to documentation seen by The Courier, the error was discovered on August 29, three days after the final £59,395 payment was issued and an investigation was launched by the local authority.

The recurring transfers were one of two set up to the recipient due to a change in circumstances.

However, a member of the accounts team keyed one of the figures incorrectly, resulting in an overpayment of almost £297,000.

The council probe found procedures for payments to individuals of over £5,000 were not checked by a senior staff member for accuracy.

A series of recommendations have been made to tighten up the system and prevent a recurrence.

Service manager Jacqueline Armitage said: “Unfortunately a keying error resulted in the wrong payment being issued and, as it was set up as an automatically recurring payment, multiple payments were made.

“The incorrect recurring payment should have been picked up as part of our normal checks, so we’ve now put an additional reporting mechanism in place to create a dual-checking system.

“We retrieved the majority of the funds and have agreed a repayment plan for the outstanding amount.”

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