Scotland

SPT to tighten spending controls

Ron Culley, Alistair Watson and Davie McLachlan
Image caption Ron Culley, Alistair Watson and Davie McLachlan have all resigned from SPT

Tighter controls on spending are to be introduced at Scotland's largest public transport organisation following an expenses scandal.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) aproved the move after an audit report found fault with its procedures.

KPMG said the organisation's former management had claimed "excessive" expenses and that credit card receipts had been "shredded".

The body's chairman, vice chairman and chief executive have all resigned.

The auditor's report said £32,000 spent on SPT's corporate credit card remained unaccounted for.

They also suggested a three-day trip by management to Manchester in 2008 had been arranged to coincide with Rangers' Uefa Cup final appearance.

Almost £40,000 was also spent on trips to New York, India and Dubai.

Image caption Bob Wylie has repaid "an amount" of expenses

SPT chairman Alistair Watson, vice-chairman Davie McLachlan, chief executive Ron Culley and director of communications Bob Wylie have all left the organisation since the controversy began.

KPMG criticised a 2008 trip to a transport conference in New York by Mr Culley, Mr McLachlan and David Fagan which cost £17,500, including more than £100 a day on meals.

"We question the value received by SPT from this expenditure," the report said.

"We also question whether it was necessary for two members to be in attendance on this trip."

The expenses claimed included £621 spent in the Russian Tea Room, a restaurant in the city, which was attended by five people.

A trip to India and Dubai involving Mr Culley, Mr Watson and Mr McLachlan, and a fourth SPT officer, cost £18,506, the report showed.

The roles of Mr Watson and Mr McLachlan was questioned on the trips.

Mr Wylie initiated a meeting with the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive on 14 May, the same day as Rangers' Uefa Cup final match with Zenit St Petersburg in the city, which Mr Wylie attended.

The meeting itself lasted one-and-a-half hours, the report said, but £1,495 was claimed in expenses for the three-day trip, attended by Mr Wylie and Mr McLachlan.

This included the costs of taxis between Manchester and the Chester hotel where they stayed.

There was also £388 spent on drinks and food.

"Personal and excessive expenditure has been incurred on this trip and should be repaid," the report said.

"The evidence suggests that this trip was arranged to coincide with the Uefa Cup final, although this is disputed by the former director of communications."

The report said Mr Wylie repaid "an amount" of expenses.

But it added: "It could be argued that the entire expenses associated with this trip should be repaid."

Mr Wylie was one of four directors whose posts were due to be downgraded in a shake-up of the organisation.

'Strengthen guidelines'

The man who initiated the changes, new chairman Jonathan Findlay, has said he fully accepts there were failings.

The findings of the KPMG report were considered by the organisations audit and standards committee on Wednesday.

Committee chair, Duncan MacIntyre, said that although the organisation had been "vindicated by the majority of KPMG's findings - six out of the nine complaints made were completely unfounded - there were lessons to be learned".

"KPMG recognised SPT has robust procedures in place and swift action has already been taken to strengthen guidelines further - in particular the tightening of controls on all travel arrangements," he said.

"Moving forward, this process will now include advance detail of travel arrangements, along with mandatory reports back to committee. Public transport will be expected to be used where possible.

"The organisation will strive to be open and accountable by publishing expense costs online and continue to deliver the best transport solutions for our customers."

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