North Wales Police are hoping to get back £560,000 from a mobile phone provider after paying for phone services which were never received.
The huge figure was revealed in an audit report presented to the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner (now rebranded as a self proclaimed ‘Crime Tsar’) and North Wales Police at a joint audit committee meeting.
What is referred to as a ‘likely overpayment’ works out to be a £70,000 a quarter mobile bill since April 1st 2013 with the error only discovered on the 28th of August this year, and auditors noting they were informed on September 9th.
The audit report says the mobile provider involved has accepted there is a ‘likely issue’ and a method of repayment is in the process of being agreed.
The auditors note that the payments were ‘part of a contract with a mobile phone provider for services they have not received’ and that ‘in total this amounts to an overpayment of £560,000 (£280,000 in each of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years). It has been confirmed by the mobile phone provider that these charges should not have been made and the Force is currently awaiting a refund’.
A letter addressed to the Auditor General for Wales states: “Following discussions with all parties it is considered that putting this amount through the accounts and relative notes at a point where the audit was completed would create a substantial risk that errors and inconsistency would result in the accounts”, therefore the detail does not appear in the Audit of Financial Statements Report for the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales and Chief Constable for North Wales this year, but should appear next year.
Wrexham.com asked North Wales Police for comment, including enquiries over the time taken to identify the error, they told us: “We are in talks with the company concerned and the matter is being resolved.”
North Wales Police publish monthly PDF documents detailing spending of over £500 on their website, with Vodafone Corporate Limited being the only consistently highly paid (eg. £149,897 in April) mobile provider in the documents. Other mobile providers such as O2 and Orange appear, however having payments much smaller.
As a note for anyone interested in the finances of policing in North Wales the committee was told that members of the public could come along and raise questions if they wished at a specific point in time but ‘no members of the public attended’. This is likely via the Audit Commission Act which allows electors to inspect documents backing up a public body’s published accounts. The advertising of this opportunity is not something we have seen locally, so would offer this as a reminder to anyone interested to get in touch with the PCC to ensure future notification does not get missed.
Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners will be next year on Thursday the 5th of May, with the inaugural elections seeing a turnout of just 14.83% in North Wales, with the winner getting just 4.9% of the overall registered electors.
(This story, first spotted by us here at Wrexham.com has since made it into the Private Eye magazine)