Taxman staff member sacked after £10,000 credit card spree

A MEMBER OF THE TAXMAN’S MANAGEMENT has been sacked and the department told to improve its financial management following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The manager is alleged to have spent more than £10,000 using corporate credit cards, prompting the IPCC to investigate.

The majority of withdrawals were made on the credit card assigned to the manager, but cards used by other members of her team – to which she also had access – were also used.

When the allegations were put to her, the manager said some of the transactions were used to pay intelligence sources and others to maintain a petty cash float in her unit. She was suspended on 3 August 2011.

The taxman then referred the case to the IPCC, and criminal and disciplinary proceedings were launched.

When questioned, the manager denied any wrongdoing, but the IPCC branded her version of events “inherently implausible”.

Instead, it found it was likely the officer used HMRC’s cards to withdraw and keep money to which she was not entitled, and as a result, the case was passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service, although no criminal charges were ever brought.

The taxman, though, held a disciplinary hearing and dismissed the officer.

A review of credit card procedures in the manager’s unit by the IPCC expressed serious concerns that credit cards could be used with such a frequency undetected over a 12-month period.

The review found the unit did not have adequate systems in place, the petty cash procedures were lax, and there was no real audit process.

The IPCC has recommended regularly changing codes to room and cupboard locks, and ensuring all financial accounting within the unit could demonstrate a clear and accountable audit process. It also suggested the taxman “share learning” from the case with its other units.

IPCC commissioner Sarah Green said public servants “have a responsibility to ensure that the resources they are entrusted with are used responsibly”.

She added: “What our investigators found in this case fell below the standards expected.”

It is understood HMRC has already changed its system for using credit cards at the office, reviewed its operating procedures and carried out a full audit of all transactions, finding no further anomalies.

HMRC’s head of internal governance, Steve Timewell, said: “We referred this case to the IPCC because we require the highest professional standards from our people. We take firm action on the rare occasions an officer’s conduct falls below the standards we expect, and referring such cases to the IPCC ensures robust, independent scrutiny.”

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