The body whose job it is to regulate Scottish Water has come under fire for its reckless spending of public money.
The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) was criticised after a scathing report from Audit Scotland revealed the regulator was spending funds on a range of lavish purchases.
Among them was a £77,000 Harvard course for one of the body’s senior managers. Elsewhere, staff members were treated to meals at £200 a head and given £100 vouchers as Christmas gifts, which exceeded the £75 limit that’s currently in place.
After analysing the 2022-2023 accounts, the watchdog also found that the regulator failed to seek government approval for two purchases.
In its damning report, Audit Scotland said: “I am concerned that this amount of public money was spent without due process being followed or a clear assessment being undertaken to demonstrate that this expenditure represented value for money.
“All expenditure should be incurred in accordance with the requirements of the commission’s finance policies and guidelines, and the rules and guidance set out in the Scottish public finance manual. If there is any dubiety as to whether planned expenditure is permissible, approval should be sought from the sponsor division prior to the expenditure being incurred.”
As well as the overspending, the auditors also found that the body’s entire expenses process was flawed, with claims unsupported by receipts or exceeding the approved subsistence rates. Further, the findings revealed the reimbursement of alcohol, which is against the rules.
In a statement released by Audit Scotland, Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “Value for money should always be central to public bodies’ spending decisions.
“But these findings highlight unacceptable behaviour by senior commission officials in the use of public funds.
“I expect appropriate action to be taken to address the issues reported by the auditor.”
This isn’t the first time the WICS has found itself in the firing line. Just this year, the body’s chief executive, Alan Sutherland, was found to have taken over £14,000 for leave he didn’t actually take. So it’s no surprise that public confidence is perhaps waning.
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