Ponchos on council credit card bill
OFFICIALS bought ponchos, sweets, costumes and gift vouchers using council credit cards, in spending running up to almost £150,000.
The spending of each department of Scottish Borders Council since 2007 was revealed in a freedom of information request.
The resources department emerged as the biggest spender, using credit cards for £63,620 or purchases over the last five years.
The department paid £34.94 for children’s sweets and £72.49 for costumes in 2010.
The planning department spent £75.89 on 10 packs of 10 disposable ponchos in 2009 and £86.04 on whistles in 2007.
An information request last year showed former chief executive David Hume’s card had been used for £9,000 worth of purchases in three years.
In another freedom of information appeal, independent councillor David Hawick found four directors had their own credit cards.
He then asked why elected councillors were not asked to sanction the use of cards.
The resources department also spent £1,612 on a return flight from Edinburgh to Bristol and bought 5,000 text messages at £291.
It also bought a Freedom of Information in Scotland book worth £57 and £4.20 worth of coffee.
The environment and infrastructure department spent £900 on gift vouchers in March last year.
The social work department spent £1,10 on a parking charge and £500 on two return flights from Edinburgh to Prague.
Technical services bought £563 worth of St Andrews’s glas in September 2009.
A spokesman for campaign group TaxpayerScotland said: “As always, the use of credit cards by local councils needs constant oversight by management.
“It drives taxpayers mad when hard-earned cash is seen to be spent on fripperies.
“Every penny not spent directly front-line spending should be scrutinised.
“We would also like to see a lot more of these expenses being published on-line instead of time being spent answering repeated FOI requests to find out what goes on behind closed doors”.
A council spokesman said:”Credit cards are a common method of purchasing in botht he public and private sector and some of the spen is recovered from external sources.
“There are guidelines for use of the card. Using a credit card is a more streamlined, more efficient and less costly way of paying for goods and services.
“Some discounts are only available via online purchasing and some items may only be available from online sources.”
The spokesman added: “We do no pay any interest on credit cards.”
Hawick councillor David Paterson said: “The spending is on some things which are without the boundaries of what’s needed.
“If there’s cuts all round the council we as councillors and officers should be looking at our own spending.
“Council officers should be leading by example.”
He said he expected the council to give credit card spending more oversight now, bringing the bill down.
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