Thursday, 12 December 2019

Questions (47)

Niall Collins

Question:

47. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of credit cards issued to Ministers and officials working in his Department; the amount spent on credit cards in each year since 2016; the bank interest paid on credit cards in each year since 2016; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on the cards; the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on personally held credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work-related expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52403/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

There are currently just three official credit cards in use in the Department's Headquarters. Two are held by designated officials in the Finance Division offices of the Department in Dublin and in Limerick and are generally used only for emergency purchases or purchases that can only be made by credit card. An official credit card was also issued to the Private Office of the Office of the Tánaiste in February 2019 but the card is only used to make and hold hotel and other reservations. There have not been any transactions on this card since it issued earlier this year. There are no official credit cards held by the Department in the Offices of the Minister of State for European Affairs or the Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development. In 2016 and 2017 an official credit card was held in the Office of then Minister of State for International Development but the card was cancelled in 2017.

My Department’s policy on the use of official credit cards is restrictive and credit cards are only authorised for officers who, due to the nature of their work or for particular circumstances, have a compelling business need for an official credit card. Official credit cards may only be used for necessary transactions arising in the course of official business and the credit limit is €5,000. Issue of official credit cards must be authorised by the Department’s Chief Financial Officer.

Official credit card bills are analysed and each transaction certified as in order before payment is made. Personal expenditure is not allowed on official credit cards. All relevant supporting documentation is retained for internal and external audit purposes. Procedures on the use of official credit cards are reviewed regularly to ensure that the controls in place are sufficiently robust.

Where colleagues claim for official expenditure incurred on personal credit cards the same controls are in place including the need to submit full invoice/receipts for the relevant expenditure. All expenditure claims are approved by a line manager.

The total amount spent on credit cards in the Department's Headquarters in the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and to end-November 2019 was:

2016 - €5,294

2017 - €6,590

2018 - €3,224

2019 - €5,286

The amount of bank interest paid was:

2018 - €3.38

2019 - €0.86

Bank interest was not paid in the years 2016 or 2017.

In addition, twenty nine Missions abroad, out of a total of ninety overseas diplomatic Missions, have credit card facilities for use for the official business of the Mission. These credit cards may only be used for transactions arising in the course of official business e.g. to pay for air and train travel, hotel bookings, etc on behalf of diplomatic officers based at the Mission. The same strict controls and guidelines regarding use that apply to official credit cards held at Headquarters apply to official credit cards held at Missions abroad. The Department's financial management system does not allow for the information sought in respect of credit cards used in overseas Missions to be extracted in the time available to finalise the PQ reply.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not have any agencies operating under its aegis.