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Kilkenny County Council paid phone bills of former employees for years, according to internal audits

Audits also found that staff had not been logging absences and had not kept logs of what cars employees were driving.

Image: Shutterstock/Lipik Stock Media

A COUNTY COUNCIL paid a staff member’s phone bill for almost seven years after they had retired, according to an internal audit.

Kilkenny County Council had been paying bills for nine phones for people who were no longer employed by them.

The findings were contained in a series of internal audits, which also disclosed that less than 10% of staff accounted for 44% of expense claims.

The council was not keeping an accurate log of what cars employees were driving meaning they could easily have been paid higher rates based on cars with bigger engines than the ones they drove.

An internal audit said some mileage expense claims were so high that the county council needed to consider whether it would be cheaper to just buy or lease vehicles for those staff.

Issues with recording of absences among staff members were also flagged in one of the reports, seven of which were released under FOI.

Business absences logged by one employee were recorded as a “full stop” on more than 100 occasions on the council’s internal files.

Another used just two words “business leave” to record 65 absences without providing any further detail of what they related to.

An audit also found that 218 employees had accumulated nearly 18,000 unexplained absences and that staff were routinely clocking in at locations other than their actual work base.

An internal audit of social housing raised questions over how the valuation process worked and whether the council was always getting value for money.

In one case, a valuation report was commissioned on a house recommending payment of €180,000, which was the exact same as the market asking price.

Yet the same valuation report had also said “the dwelling [was] in poor condition and does not reflect the amount of money being requested from the vendors as it requires an enormous spend to improve”.

The report recommended an independent valuation take place prior to any offers being made on houses.

The internal audit of travel and expenses made five findings including that travel expenses were being paid without valid insurance certs indemnifying the council. It also said claims were not being made in a timely manner.

The report said: “Internal Audit compared travel and subsistence expenditure in five neighbouring local authorities. Kilkenny have the highest expenses per wholetime equivalent (WTE) with €2,301 per WTE.”

It said geographic factors and office locations did play a part but that expenses had also increased by more than €100,000 in the space of a few years.

The report added: “Management should examine if hiring/purchasing council vehicles would be more cost effective for staff who incur high travel expenses due to the nature of their work.”

A review of mobile phone devices found no formal policy in place, lack of supervision, and phones being retained after people left service.

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The report said: “Eleven devices included in August invoice were not recognised by the staff member listed on the invoice. These included mobile phones and 3G Sims.”

Problems were also identified with payment of phones for former staff: “One staff member left employment in Feb 2012 – [the council] has paid the bill for the past six years and seven months. This has cost the council €1,068.87.”

An internal audit on attendance policy discovered poor controls over sick leave and monitoring of attendance.

It said providing a reason for business absences was mandatory but in many cases this was not provided; problems with unexplained absences were also reported.

A procurement review found that more than a third of invoices examined were not compliant with “approved procurement procedures”.

It said the value of non-compliant invoices in a single week was over €67,000 with more than 40% of them related to housing maintenance services.

In a statement, council Director of Services Tim Butler said: “Internal audit is an independent internal corporate function of Kilkenny County Council with the purpose of analysing systems and processes within the organisation.

“The purpose of reports by the Internal Auditor is to highlight facts, examine systems and processes, seek observations from line managers and make recommendations on additional controls required in specific areas and any follow-up required.”

About the author:

Ken Foxe

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