Scottish Government to strengthen civil service spending rules

Policies on bank card spending will be aligned with more rigorous UK government protocols, following a review
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By Tevye Markson

09 Jan 2024

The Scottish Government will align civil service bank card spending policies with the UK government's more rigorous protocols, following a review.

The changes will see monthly spending limits for electronic purchase cards (ePCs) tightened and civil servants asked to pay back inappropriate spending.

First minister Humza Yousaf ordered a review in August after it emerged that nearly 60,000 transactions were made on government bank cards, adding up to more than £6m.

The internal audit of credit card spending by civil servants in the Scottish Government looked into 194 transactions that were questioned in the media – including yoga classes, nail varnish and Edinburgh Festival tickets – and found one all but one was appropriate under the current ePC policy. The inappropriate payment was a Just Eat takeaway fraudulently purchased by someone who was not the card user.

However, the audit found opportunities for improving the current protocol, including reviewing what can and cannot be purchased through ePC, beefing up training and reassessing how many cardholders are needed.

The Scottish Government also held talks with the UK government to compare policies and identify where improvements could be made.

It found three areas where it can strengthen current protocols by aligning them with the UK government:

  • Dropping the ePC monthly transaction limit from £25,000 to £10,000
  • Retaining receipts and invoices for all transactions on ePC cards for three years
  • Setting out that card holders should pay monies back if an ePC is used inappropriately.

The Scottish Government has set out an action plan in response to the suggestions, which it says will focus on raising awareness of ePC policies,further review of policy and procedures in light of the audit's findings, improving training, greater scrutiny of monthly transactions, and alignment with UK government policies "where they are more rigorous".

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