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Chief approved own expenses - The Evening Telegraph

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Chief approved own expenses - The Evening Telegraph

Post  Angelique on Sat 29 Oct - 16:40

See - they are doing it on their own now - giving themselves their own expenses

Chief approved own expenses

Published on Saturday 29 October 2011 09:06

A FIRE chief was able to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on business class flights because he could approve his own expenses.

Former chief fire officer for Lincolnshire, Mike Thomas ran up a bill of £26,768 for 12 international journeys to countries including the USA, New Zealand, Japan and Canada between April 2009 and March 2011.

The figures, revealed after a Taxpayers’ Alliance Freedom of Information request, showed that on several occasions Mr Thomas travelled in the relative luxury of business class on long-haul flights – including £4,103 Club World British Airways trip to Rhode Island – to international search and rescue training programmes and meetings to improve firefighter safety internationally.

The Evening Telegraph can now reveal that the reason this spending, which contravened council policies, was not noticed by top Lincolnshire County Council officials because Mr Thomas was in a senior enough position to authorise his own expenses.

Certain high-ranking officials at the council are allowed to have “procurement cards”, essentially credit cards required to carry out council business.

All holders of procurement cards are required to have their spending approved by their line managers.

However as Mr Thomas was the most senior official in the fire service, he was able to approve his own spending.

This oversight on the part of the council, which is the fire authority for Lincolnshire and as such funds the county’s brigade, has since been changed so that all travel for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue is approved by the council’s executive director for resources and community safety.

A spokesman for the council said: “Each cardholder has an overall monthly limit set by management and a financial advisor.

“The line manager reviews and authorises the transactions each month, though in this instance the cardholder was of such seniority that he authorised his own transactions.”

Mr Thomas was found to have been in contravention of council guidelines as all procurement card holders must use low-fare airlines where possible, and always the lowest cost option.

But over the two-year period, Mr Thomas’s cheapest flight was an £152 Easyjet economy ticket to Berlin.

In the same period, he took seven journeys on a mixture of business class; business/premium economy class; Club World; or World Traveller Plus class; all of which cost more than £1,000.

On one occasion, Mr Thomas spent £3,999 on a Club World British Airways ticket to Wellington, New Zealand; while another council employee travelled to the same city with Opodo on an economy ticket costing £783.

In total, the council spent more than £42,000 on flights during the two years, the highest out of councils in the East and West Midlands.

The council revealed yesterday that a large portion of this money was spent on fire and rescue training for response to international incidents.

Mr Thomas, who was awarded an MBE in 2005, played a major role in the British fire and rescue services response to recent major natural disasters such as the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

Councillor Phil Dilks, chairman of Deeping St James Parish Council, was furious about the spending on flights.

He said: “It’s outrageous for a council to spend £42,000 on flights at a time when home to school transport in this district has been drastically cut.”

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