Some OPW staff paid on the double for expenses due to lack of checks
2nd January 2022
Some staff at the OPW were paid on the double for travel and subsistence claims, with a lack of checks on expense sheets highlighted by internal auditors.
Audit reports released by the state agency also detail how internal auditors raised concerns that health and safety staff were doing so much travel that their high mileage should itself be risk assessed on health and safety grounds.
One internal audit on travel and subsistence for operational staff listed four separate “high” ranked weaknesses in OPW systems for paying expenses.
It revealed that an analysis of claims by three employees showed they had been paid twice for the same expenses incurred.
“Audit found instances where both Country Money and mileage expenses were paid to an employee for the same days,” the report stated.
“As the daily Country Money allowance includes travel and subsistence to and from a site, tax-free mileage expenses should not be paid for these days to and from the site.”
The internal audit also found that some operational staff were doing more than 15,000km-a-year of travel in their own transport.
It was recommended the OPW should consider whether allowances for these staff should be considered instead because of the €1.2m annual mileage bill in their area.
The report also said there was no clear travel and subsistence policy in place to deal with more than €2.4m in expense claims. It said the paper-based system in use was “highly manual”, time consuming, and a “significant overhead” for the OPW.
The report also explained how managers of operational staff had no oversight of an employee’s individual travel and subsistence spend.
“Audit found that there were no reports available or issued to authorisers/heads of sections to review travel claims made by staff,” it said.
A separate internal audit of travel and subsistence payments for the health and safety unit raised concerns over the number of miles some staff were covering. It found staff were doing an average of around 18,000km per year and suggested a risk assessment was needed on “the sustainability of high motor hours, health and safety, employee performance, [and] work life balance”.
The audit also found there were insufficient details logged on mileage claims for the person approving them to properly check the details.
A spokeswoman for the OPW said their internal audit team examined practices, procedures, and internal controls on an ongoing basis.