MPs face tougher controls on taxpayer-funded credit cards after review finds scores repeatedly used them for personal costs
- Ipsa has imposed tougher controls on MPs’ credit cards after assurance review
- Some 100 MPs have used cards for at least three purchased not reimbursed
- Watchdog stressed abuse was small but admitted issues with enforcement
MPs face tougher controls on their taxpayer-funded credit cards after it emerged scores have used them for personal costs.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of non-claimable spending has been put on official payment cards since 2010, according to a review.
Some 100 MPs have used the cards for at least three purchases that they subsequently did not try to get reimbursed.
For 14 MPs, more than 15 per cent of their transactions were classed as personal costs – and only 23 per cent have never used the cards for anything outside the rules.
The details were revealed in an ‘assurance’ report by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – which said it is now toughening up the system.
Some 100 MPs have used the cards for at least three purchases that they subsequently did not try to get reimbursed, according to Ipsa (file picture of the Commons)
Payment cards are issued to politicians so they do not have to shell out up-front for travel tickets and a host of other outlays relating to their jobs.
Up to £4,000 a month can be put on the tab, and individual transactions can be up to £2,000.
However, the spending is only checked retrospectively, after Ipsa has settled the balance.
The arrangements have previously caused trouble when MPs have either had claims rejected, filed them late, or spent on personal items.
Ipsa said it had temporarily deactivated cards 1,111 times between May 2015 and November 2018, which is done while claims are outstanding or to recover debts from MPs.
A FOI request previously showed that Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were among dozens who had the the privilege suspended.
The PM faced the sanction once and Mr Corbyn twice, and for both it was because they were late reconciling figures rather than over debts.
The details were revealed in an ‘assurance’ report by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa)
However, only five MPs have been contacted about repeated misuse of cards since 2015 – and none had theirs permanently withdrawn, despite four of them repeating the breach at least once afterwards.
Since 2010 £473,000 of transactions on cards were not claimed for, and around £198,000 was spending outside the expenses scheme.
The report stressed that abuse of the cards was a relatively small problem, saying the expenditure on personal items amounted to just 0.5 per cent of the total on cards. It also insisted that while MPs might have had a ‘personal benefit’ from interest free credit, all funds were recouped.
‘A very small number of MPs have used their payment card multiple times for personal expenditure, with 14 MPs identified as having used their payment cards for personal expenditure in over 15 per cent of their transactions,’ Ipsa said.
‘Ipsa regularly turns off MPs’ payment cards when they fail to provide evidence on time or when they fail to reconcile their card on time.
‘However, the few cases of repeated misuse by MPs were not addressed promptly. As a result, a personal benefit may have been given to the few MPs who used the card for personal costs, in the form of an interest-free period before the costs were recovered.’
Ipsa said since the election in December last year it had toughened up its policies to crack down on abuse of the cards.
‘Under the new policy, if any debt owed by an MP is not repaid within 30 days, the MP’s card will be suspended until the debt is recovered or a repayment plan is in place,’ the report said.
‘The new policy also includes more effective processes for dealing with misuse of the payment card; serious or persistent breaches of the conditions will result in the card being suspended for up to six months or withdrawn completely.
A FOI request previously showed that Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Corbyn (right) were among dozens who had payment cards temporarily suspended. The PM faced the sanction once and Mr Corbyn twice, and for both it was because they were late reconciling figures rather than over debts.