Probe into trading standards cash cards

COUNTY chiefs have carried out a review of credit card use by trading standards officers after concerns were raised about the way they are used.

COUNTY chiefs have carried out a review of credit card use by trading standards officers after concerns were raised about the way they are used.

Trading Standards officers at Suffolk County Council have used cash cards and covert credit cards for several years after they were introduced so cash could be withdrawn to make undercover test purchases.

However a report due to go before county chiefs today revealed a number of purchases have been made that were not for their intended purpose.

Trading Standards denies any wrongdoing.

The report also states that trading standards managers lack knowledge on who has been issued with cards, and are not clear on the procedure for the return of cards once a member of the team has either left or transferred to another department.

It also said there is no documented evidence of bosses having provided authorisation on credit card spending prior to some purchases being made.

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Stephen Greenfield of Suffolk County Council's trading standards department said there is no question of impropriety with cards.

He said the auditors had been called in to assess the systems in place and that the findings were not unexpected.

He said: “On a regular basis our staff need cash to make test purchases in the field and we were the first in the country to allow these cards so money can be drawn out.

“It means we don't waste money by getting them to drive all around the county to get money out.

“Our officers are based throughout the county and sometimes use the cards in emergencies, to buy a new ink cartridge or something similar.

“The audit found that on one or two occasions items such as this should have been bought through central procurement rather than on card.

“We probably strayed over a line and people were using them a bit too liberally but by and large the credit cards were being used in exactly the way they were intended to be used.”

Mr Greenfield added that officers do know who is in possession of cards but, up until now, no records had been kept as the number was so small it was not felt necessary.

N Do you think tighter controls on council credit card spending are needed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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