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Corporate procurement cards (2017)

Request

  1. How many The House of Commons Government Procurement Cards and/or corporate credit cards (or equivalents) are currently in active use?
  2. Have you had an internal audit of card spending in the last three years? If so, please provide any reports(s) written as a result of these audits.
  3. If any procurement/corporate credit card holder has been reprimanded for its usage or had a transaction queried for validity since the start of the 2014/15 financial year, please provide the details (redacted if necessary).
  4. The name of the bank(s) who provide your procurement/corporate credit cards.
  5. The following spending details on all Government Procurement Cards/Corporate Credit Cards and any payment cards that are paid for out of public funds in .csv format:
    • Posted date and occurred date (if available)
    • Billing amount (please state how you express returns e.g. as a negative number, as a number in brackets or other variations)
    • Merchant name (as expressed in the bank statements if available)
    • Justification if given
    • If any transactions were carried out by or on behalf of The Speaker of The House of Commons, please specify which transactions they were.
    I am requesting the information for Question 5 for the following financial years: 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17 so far.

 

Response

  • How many House of Commons Government Procurement Cards and/or corporate credit cards (or equivalents) are currently in active use?
    This information is held by the House of Commons. There are currently 205 Government Procurement Cards (GPCs) in issue as at the date of your request. GPCs are intended to be used by House of Commons & Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) staff to make quick, simple and cost effective purchases when they are either away from their workplace on business (e.g. on a committee visit in the UK or overseas) or when raising a purchase order would not provide value-for-money, e.g. very low value items.
  • Have you had an internal audit of card spending in the last three years? If so, please provide any reports(s) written as a result of these audits.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    There has been one internal audit (pdf 1.6MB) (pdf 1.6MB) within the last three years.
    Please note that the personal data of one individual has been redacted.  This information is exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
  • If any procurement/corporate credit card holder has been reprimanded for its usage or had a transaction queried for validity since the start of the 2014/15 financial year, please provide the details (redacted if necessary).
    This information is not held by the House of Commons. Since the start of the 2014/15 financial year, there are no records of any disciplinary cases relating to the use of a Government Procurement Card, or any cases in which a transaction has been queried for validity. GPC transactions are regularly queried in line with our internal policies. Those policies state that the GPC Administrator is responsible for carrying out an integrity and compliance check in respect of twenty five per cent (25%) of GPC transactions using data extracted from HAIS (Finance Software).
    Please note that the procurement cards allow staff of the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Digital Service to pay for relatively low value items in a cheap, secure, and quick way. The use of the cards reduces the House’s processing costs and enables suppliers to be paid more quickly. All cards have an agreed individual transaction limit and a monthly expenditure limit. The cards can only be used for business purposes and never for personal expenditure. Each card holder agrees to a strict code of user conditions, with any breaches of the policy being considered a disciplinary offence.
  • The name of the bank(s) who provide your procurement/corporate credit cards.
    This information is held by the House of Commons. GPCs are issue from Natwest under the Central Government Framework.
  • The following spending details on all Government Procurement Cards/Corporate Credit Cards and any payment cards that are paid for out of public funds in .csv format. I am requesting the information for Question 5 for the following financial years: 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17 so far.
    • Posted date and occurred date (if available)
    • Billing amount (please state how you express returns e.g. as a negative number, as a number in brackets or other variations)
    • Merchant name (as expressed in the bank statements if available)
    • Justification if given
    • If any transactions were carried out by or on behalf of The Speaker of The House of Commons, please specify which transactions they were.
    The House of Commons holds this information.
    Details of spending for the 2014/15 financial year is already available on the parliamentary webpages.
    As the information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the FOIA, your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA.  This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
    Details of spending for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years (up to the date of your request) are provided below and broken down by individual transactions, showing the date of the transaction, amount, area of expenditure, type of expenditure and who payment was made to.
  • 2015/16
  • 2016/17
  • 2016/17 ( March 2019- additional data added)

Please note that where some codes were operational in prior financial years but are now no longer in use, or where the budget is closing or to be closed, the field will display ‘Do Not Use’, ‘Not to be used’ or ‘Legacy cost only’ before the appropriate code. Refunds are indicated in red text.
Additionally, please note, that those transactions which are described as “fraudulent transactions”, relate to those which were charged in error and subsequently refunded. In all of these transactions, no fraudulent activity was found to have occurred. 

Please note, some information on the spreadsheets has been redacted. This material is exempt under the following sections of the FOIA:

Section 40 (personal data)
Some personal information, for example names of operational staff have been redacted from these receipts. This information is exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the FOIA (the exemption for personal information), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with the data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

Section 31 (Law enforcement)
In addition, we have redacted some security details such as details of hotels regularly used by the Members of Parliament for some delegations. This has been withheld in accordance with section 31 (1) (a) of the FOIA, as to disclose this information would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime. This is not an absolute exemption and requires a public test to be performed.
We have considered our obligation to assist the public in understanding how we conduct our business and the legitimate interest in the use of resources funded by the taxpayer. However, the disclosure of this information may assist people of malicious or criminal intent to predict the whereabouts of Members at future visits, exposing them to an unacceptable risk of criminal harm. Disclosure of such information would fail in our duty to assist those services providing us with law enforcement services as it would hinder their work in preventing and detecting crime and apprehending offenders.

Section 24(1) National security
Information relating to the details of hotels regularly used by Members on delegations is also withheld under section 24 (1) of the FOIA, which provides an exemption from disclosure where provision of the information would make the UK or its citizens more vulnerable to a national security threat. This is a qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.
There is a public interest in understanding that Members representing the UK abroad are securely accommodated in hotels and that the measures in place to safeguard national security are effective. The countervailing risk is national security being compromised if the names and locations of these hotels was disclosed, allowing Members to be specifically targeted. Groups planning attacks are known to conduct extensive research into how best to gain access to their targets. Releasing details of regularly used locations of Members into the public domain would allow them to be directly targeted by criminals, terrorists or fixated individuals. In these circumstances it is our view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Section 38 (Health and safety)
Some of the information you require is being withheld on the basis that its disclosure to the public generally would be likely to endanger the physical health and safety of individuals while attending events. We have therefore concluded that some details of hotels used regularly by delegates is exempt from disclosure as provided by section 38(1) (a) and (b) of the FOIA. This is not an absolute exemption and requires a public test to be performed.
We have considered the public interest in understanding how taxpayer money is spent by Members of Parliament when attending events. However, there is a countervailing public interest that the health and safety of those individuals, and those of other guests and staff, may be harmed by the release of details of some hotels regularly used by delegates. The disclosure of the information you seek would actively prejudice the security, health and safety of delegates and others by identifying locations and making them more vulnerable to attack, thereby increasing the risk of harm. It is our view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


In addition, the House of Commons holds details of spending charged to the Speaker’s official House account.  Details of spending charged to the Speakers Office budget for the financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16 to 16 January 2016 is already published on the parliamentary website. As this information is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), this part of your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA.  This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

• Spreadsheet for an itemised breakdown of all spending charged to the Speaker’s official House account from 16 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

Please note that while the expenditure as detailed on the spreadsheet relates to Mr Speaker and the nine staff of the Speaker’s Office, the salaries and staff costs expenditure relates solely to Speaker’s Office staff and not Mr Speaker.

In addition, from our records, the following expenditure was charged to the Speaker’s Office budget between 1 January 2017 and 31 January 2017. 13 January 2017: Official entertainment and gifts (The Dreams and Wishes Reception) £165.50               

It may help you to know that the Speaker is committed to cutting costs wherever possible, and the overall expenditure of the Speaker’s Office has fallen during his tenure from £626,029 in 2009/10 to £504,737 in 2015/16, representing a reduction of 23.7 percent since he was elected to the role.

Information relating to Mr Speaker’s travel expenses are proactively published on the parliamentary website quarterly since June 2013 and details for previous years can be found on our Freedom of Information Disclosures pages. As this information you request is reasonably accessible to you otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), your request is refused. In refusing your request the House is applying the exemption set out in section 21 (1) and (2) (a) of the FOIA. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

Information relating to Mr Speaker’s travel expenses for January 2017 are due to be published in the spring of 2017. This information is withheld under section 22 (intended for future publication) of the Act. Section 22 is a qualified exemption, and accordingly we have to consider whether the public interest is in withholding the information or in disclosing it. The arguments for and against disclosure are detailed below.
The general argument in favour of releasing information is that there is a public interest in being able to scrutinise aspects of the House of Commons where that information might be easy to access and will not prejudice the House. Against disclosure the argument is the public interest in permitting public authorities to publish information in a manner and form and at a time of their own choosing. It is a part of the effective conduct of public affairs that the general publication of information is a conveniently planned and managed activity within the reasonable control of public authorities. Where the decision has been made in principle to publish, there is a reasonable entitlement to make arrangements to do so.