HMRC controller sacked following IPCC investigation
A unit at Her Majestyís Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been told to improve its financial management and one of its staff dismissed following an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation.
The IPCC decided to investigate after allegations an HMRC team leader stole more than £10,000 using corporate credit cards were referred to it.
In late July 2011 a number of credit card cash withdrawals made over the previous 12 months that added up to £10,530 were questioned.
The majority were made using a credit card assigned to the manager, although cards used by other members of the team were also used. As a manager, she had access to all of the credit cards.
When presented with the list of suspicious transactions, the manager indicated some were used to pay intelligence sources and others to maintain a petty cash float in her unit. HMRC suspended her on 3 August, 2011.
The matter was then referred by HMRC to the IPCC, and a criminal and disciplinary investigation began.
When interviewed the manager denied any wrongdoing, again claiming the cash withdrawals were mainly used to pay an HMRC informant. The IPCC, however, found this explanation to be "inherently implausible".
The IPCC investigation determined it was more likely than not that the officer used the HMRC credit cards to withdraw money which she was not entitled to and which she intended to keep.
As a consequence, the case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for consideration of criminal charges. However, none were brought.
HMRC subsequently held a disciplinary hearing for the officer and she was dismissed.
IPCC Commissioner Sarah Green said: "Public servants have a responsibility to ensure that the resources they are entrusted with are used responsibly. What our investigators found in this case fell below the standards expected."
An IPCC review of credit card procedures at the unit found serious concerns that credit cards could be used at such a frequency for non-operational reasons over a 12-month period without being detected.
The unit did not have adequate systems in place, the petty cash system in the office was lax, and there was no clear audit process. The IPCC made a number of recommendations to HMRC.
These include regularly changing codes to room and cupboard locks, and ensuring all financial accounting within the unit could demonstrate a clear and accountable audit process.
The IPCC also recommended that HMRC share the learning from this case with other units to remind them of the importance of effective financial management.
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. No further anomalies were found.
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