Transport quango set to rein in its expenses but £32,000 still 'missing'

A SHAKE-UP in expenses rules at Scotland's largest transport authority could be approved at a crunch meeting today.

The move came as an auditors' report branded expenses claims made by senior executives at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport as "excessive".

The management "shredded" receipts and other documents relating to its corporate credit card – 32,000 is unaccounted for, according to auditors KPMG.

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Evidence in the report suggests that a three-day trip to Manchester in 2008 was arranged to coincide with Rangers' Uefa Cup final appearance. The report also says that nearly 40,000 was spent on trips to New York, India and Dubai.

A meeting of the transport partnership's audit and standards committee today is set to consider a raft of measures in response to the claims.

Measures include setting out the full travel costs before any trips take place, with the chief executive of the partnership no longer having sole responsibility for overseas travel of officers.

Other restrictions include limiting the use of the organisation's credit cards to only the chief executive and the two assistant chief executives.

The move comes after four directors of the transport body left in the aftermath of the row, including former chairman Alistair Watson and chief executive Ron Culley, who both quit on health grounds. Davie McLachlan stepped down as vice-chairman and former director of communications Bob Wylie left during restructuring.

The investigation found that, between April 2007 and March 2009, about 32,000 of the 57,556 spent on SPT's credit card was not supported by receipts.

The report said: "We were advised by management that the receipts and other supporting documentation were shredded by the individual responsible for the administration of corporate credit cards between the date of the internal audit and when they left the organisation."

A previous internal audit found that the credit card was used in line with the partnership's established policy.

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Auditors criticised a 2008 trip to a transport conference in New York by Mr Culley, Mr Watson and Mr McLachlan which cost 17,500, including more than 100 a day on meals for the seven-day trip.

The report said: "We question the value received by SPT from this expenditure. We also question whether it was necessary for two members to be in attendance on this trip."

The expenses claimed include 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 all three men, and a fourth SPT officer, cost 18,506.

The role of Mr Watson and Mr McLachlan is questioned on both trips, with items identified which suggest "personal expenditure and/or excessive" costs.

Mr Wylie initiated a meeting with the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive on 14 May in 2008, the same day as Rangers' Uefa Cup final clash with Zenit St Petersburg in the city, which Mr Wylie attended.

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

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