AN internal review of expenses at Limerick City Council has unearthed one example where a member of staff made identical mileage claims on consecutive months.
The review, which has been brought before the council’s audit committee, found that the same employee lodged claims for days when he was not at work.
The council flatly rejected suggestions made to the Limerick Leader that the individual is one of the most senior and highly-paid officials on the payroll.
But it declined to confirm what grade the employee was or his level of remuneration. It also declined to say whether any disciplinary procedure had been invoked or any money refunded but did reveal that the amount of money - at just over €285 - was relatively small.
“It is inappropriate for Limerick City Council to comment any further on this as the matter is in the process of being resolved,” was all a spokesperson could say on the specific case.
A draft of the review - on travel and subsistence claims in 2010 and 2011 - describes the case as follows:
“A review of one employee revealed that he had submitted the exact same claims for expenses in January and February 2010. This involved the same journeys, same mileage and the same payment for each month. There was also a distinct pattern of mileage in subsequent monthly claims by this individual and it was also noted that travelling expenses were claimed on a number of days on which annual leave was availed of. This matter has been referred to the relevant heads of section for their comments.”
The review finds staff are generally compliant with procedures for filing expense claims. But it does find that issues “in relation to supporting documentation and timely submission of claims need to be addressed”.
Some claims, were submitted “between six and eight months after the date on which the mileage was incurred with one particular claim submitted 18 months after the date on which the mileage was incurred”.
The review recommends that the computerised system for filing expenses has a “facility to attach details of mileage, approvals for travel and receipts for vouched expenses” in the absence of which “a claim should not be approved”.
But the council has stressed that this should not be interpreted as meaning that City Hall approves unvouched expenses for staff.
“It is the policy of Limerick City Council that all claims for travel/subsistence expenses must have supporting documentation,” the spokesperson stated.
Concern is also raised about the practice of inspectors going out on site, returning to base, and going back to the same area for another inspection on the same day. “This is not satisfactory as it would be more cost-effective to have all inspections in one particular area carried out on the same journey,” the review states.
The council declined to say to what sections these inspectors were attached.
According to the review, travel and subsistence claims increased from €389,822 in 2010 to €424,692 in 2011.
Councillors claims rose by a relatively modest three per cent in that period compared to the 14 per cent increase in officials expenses.
“It is acknowledged that the cost of travel and subsistence increased in 2011 but the level of expenditure in this area is determined by the level of work activity assigned to employees and is subject to variation from year to year. While the number of employees has declined, the level of work activity has not and demands on remaining employees have increased as a result,” the council said.