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Tusla procurement cards spending ‘more in line with credit card spend’

Audit recommends restrictions after cards used to buy juicer, cigarettes and hair extensions

A possible failure by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to implement regulations on managing procurement cards could lead to the misappropriation of funds, a audit has found.

Spending using procurement cards issued to some residential and social care staff at Tusla, , was “more in line with credit card expenditure” than procurement spending, the HSE audit found.

It examined cards registered to three residential units, Retreat, Elm View and Ballydowd, from January to March 2016 and found a total spend of €59,545, of which €19,741 was ATM withdrawals.

Groceries purchased using the card and cash from the withdrawals amounted to €31,011 for the three-month period, or 52 per cent of the total expenditure.

Some 64 cards were in use at the end of December 2015. Five were held by social care units and 59 by residential units. Total spending on them in 2015 was over €641,000.

There were 22 instances where expenditure exceeded the €350 transaction limit at Ballydowd in the three-month period covered by the audit.

Hair extensions

One transaction was for €682.12. The auditors said continuous expenditure over and above the €350 transaction limit should be investigated.

They noted that in once case the procurement card in use at the Retreat unit was used to buy a Nutribullet juicer for €99.99 from DID Electrical and said electrical appliances should be purchased through the traditional purchase order and invoicing system.

Two hair extensions costing €69.50 each were bought in January 2016 using Ballydowd petty cash funds, the audit found.

It said there was no evidence that prior approval was sought for this purchase.

An e-cigarette costing €47 was purchased in February 2016 using an Elm View procurement card, and a pack of Silk Cut Blue cigarettes was purchased on January 12th, 2016 at a cost of €10.50.

Tusla agreed with the auditors’ recommendation that cigarettes and e-cigarettes should not be purchased from public funds.

They noted the Tusla policy set out the routine day to day acceptable purchases, which included groceries, toiletries, Sky TV, UPC, petrol, dental/medical, clothing, school expenditure, travel, phone credit, social/leisure activities, postage and Eflow tolls.

It said the procurement policy document should be further enhanced to clarify the full extent of restricted categories of expenditure.

Management was also asked to explore with the card supplier the possibility of restricting the purchase of particular types of items. Tusla accepted the recommendation and said the policy was being modified.

A separate audit of the charity Audit Spectrum Disorder Initiatives Ltd, which received €14.3 million in HSE funding over three years to 2015, found the overall control environment to be “inadequate”.

The main issues identified by the audit were that the national director approved her own credit card expenditure, €13,121 was paid to solicitors for advice on the HSE service arrangements and gifts were purchased.