Jo Coles - York and North Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing, Fire and Crime

Jo Coles - North Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing, Fire and Crime

28 March 2016 – Freedom of information request – PCC Elections Q1 – All expenses of the PCC

Request

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please provide me with answers and documentation of the following:

    1. Please could you provide the reasoning and authorisation as to why approx. 484 changes were made to the Expenses of the Police and Crime Commissioner Document that is contained on your website at https://www.northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/All-expenditure-for-the-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-and-her-Office-to-04-May-2016-2.pdf these changes were made between 2nd December 2015 and 26th March 2016.
    2. Also why entries dating back as far as 2012 have been added / edited.
    3. Please explain why the document of expenses downloaded from your website on 2nd December 2015 contains substantial changes to that of the one downloaded 26th March 2016.
    4. Please explain why years after accounts and expenses have been audited that new entries have been added.
    5. Please explain why a total sum of over £95000 across 337 new items been added and who authorised this?
    6. Did these figures / items appear on the audited accounts for the relevant periods?
    7. If not why not?
    8. If so, why were they not published in this document earlier and why has it taken in the case of some articles nearly 4 years to be disclosed?
    9. Please explain why 147 details of expenses have been changed in the period 2012 – Nov 2015? And who authorised this?
    10. Under what authority where these additions / changes made?
    11. Do these changes / additions change any of the recent reports in to the running costs of the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner.
    12. Have any legal rules been broken with the changes of these published figures. If so what action has been / will be taken and who has it been reported to?

Why has the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner not followed the guidance set out in https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/143836/publishing-information.pdf which states that:

Information as to any item of expenditure over £500 (other than crime and disorder reduction grants) by the PCC or the Chief Officer, including: · the recipient · the purpose of the expenditure and · the reasons why the PCC or Chief Officer considered that VfM would be achieved (except contracts over £10,000). To be published each month.

Allowances & Expenses: · details of the allowances and expenses that have been claimed or incurred by the PCC and Deputy PCC. Police and Crime Commissioners and their Deputies should publish a breakdown of their expenses including: · Their name, force area, financial year, month, date, claim reference numbers, expense type (e.g. Travel, Accommodation), short description, details, amount claimed, amount reimbursed, amount not reimbursed, and the reason why a claim was not reimbursed. · For travel and subsistence claims: date, place of origin, place of destination, category of journey, class of travel, mileage, length of hotel stay, category of hotel To be published quarterly.

I look forward to your swift response and hope that you will provide an answer on or before: 25thApril 2016.

We are also seeking via other channels answers and clarification on this issues.

I understand that under the Act I am entitled to a response within 20 working days of your receipt of this request.

Some parts of the request may be easier to answer than others. Should this be the case, I request that you release information as soon as possible.

If my request is denied in whole or in part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act.

I will also expect you to release all non-exempt material.

I reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to charge excessive fees.
I would prefer to receive the information electronically.

If you require any clarification, I expect you to contact me under your section 16 duty to provide advice and assistance if you find any aspect of this FOI request problematic.

Please acknowledge receipt of this request, and I look forward to receiving the information in the near future.

Response 1st April 2016

Further to my previous email, below is my substantive response as Chief of Staff for the Police and Crime Commissioner. I am sending this in light of not receiving a response from you as to what form you would like my response to come in, but am keen to respond to all potential PCC candidates as quickly as practicable now we are in purdah. I do hope you understand my approach in this regard.

As explained, I have the day to day responsibility for the publication of information on the website of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Working with other colleagues in the office we strive to publish as much expenditure information as we can. My last email to you confirmed that the publication log in question forms no part of any formal audit or accounts and is solely a means to as clearly as possibly publish the expenditure information from the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner. I also confirmed that the Specified Information Order (SIO), which outlines what information is required to be published, sets out that all expenditure over £500 should be published. You will note that this office voluntarily goes beyond the SIO to attempt to publish all information on expenditure, including below £500. After some analysis it appears the majority of updates made to the log which you have identified are about items below £500 and are therefore voluntary in nature. Lastly on the more substantive points you have raised, the reason for backdating expenditure is to ensure we are as transparent as possible, albeit within our voluntary framework.

Notwithstanding the above publication log, which is designed for ease of use for the public primarily, you can always refer to the audited accounts at any time which also provides all costs over £500 (for both NYP and the OPCC). You can see that information here:

Other potentially helpful audit information is also available on the website under the Governance and Audit page.

On the specific questions you have asked, I hope the below explanation of the process by which this publication log gets updated will reassure you the office is constantly looking to improve transparency and does so in good faith.

When an invoice arrives in the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), it is approved (via signature) by me (depending on the amount), logged on our systems and sent to Finance Department (FD) at North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to process. Changes to the log are then published at least monthly, but more often than that much of the time. However, some invoices go direct to the FD and not to the OPCC. Those invoices are by and large passed onto the OPCC electronically to log onto our system as above. However, as I understand it, there are some costs which form part of an overall cost to NYP of which those relating to the OPCC are harder to identify or disaggregate. Those tend to relate to large contracts which cover large areas of business/expense, such as booking travel and mobile phone/data costs. Once identified, members of the OPCC will add items to the system and publish as per the above.

As explained in the opening paragraph, the expenditure publication log does not form any part of any audit or accounting, and so historic expenditure is backdated on the log to ensure it is as transparent as possible.

Looking at the changes made over the period you have identified, the vast majority appear to be under £500, which as explained, are a voluntary part of the publication log in any event. As per the links above, all costs over £500 can be accessed via separate means, but only includes the over £500 items of expenditure, and also includes NYP expenditure. For clarity, the majority of those changes you identify appear to be due to the issues around identifying costs related to the OPCC as part of wider contracts, such as:

  • travel costs which come via a central contract with Capita
  • stationery via Lyreco
  • mobile phone/data costs, which come via a central contract with Vodafone
  • water hygiene via Integrated Water Services, and
  • waste collection via O’Briens

As explained, the OPCC endeavours to publish all items of expenditure wherever possible, and when identified, backdate all entries on the publication log. The OPCC and FD continue to work together to ensure all costs related to the OPCC are processed and logged as quickly as possible.
More generally, given we are now in purdah I would request that you ask the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner, via the email address ceo@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk for more information. This means requests for information can be processed quickly, and wider context, such as the particular expenditure log in question not being part of audited accounts, can be provided up front. Also, all requests for information via this route can then be published on the PCC election 2016 webpage so that all candidates have fair and equal access to information.

I hope I have now answered your request under the procedure for providing information to prospective candidates during the pre-election period, and hope you are satisfied with this response and that the request can be treated as discharged. An anonymised question and the response will be placed on the election part of the website as soon as possible.