Hertfordshire County Council loses £9.1m after banking error

HERTFORDSHIRE County Council temporarily lost £9.1million - after a member of staff typed in the wrong bank account number.

Monday, 9th December 2019, 10:05 am
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 10:05 am

The £9.1million was due to be transferred back into a county council account on August 7 this year (2019), after a period of investment in a 'money market fund'.

But on August 8 - the day after the money was due - council officers found it had NOT arrived.

An internal investigation discovered that the wrong bank account number had been included on the instruction letters from the county council - with two of the digits wrongly transcribed.

Stock photo

And, as a result, the money had not been paid back - but had instead been returned to where it had been sent from.

Only on August 9 - two days after the payment was due - was the money returned to the county council.

On Friday, December 6, the 'treasury control failure' was reported to a meeting of the council's audit committee.

At that meeting councillors heard that the council's account number on the request had been mis-typed by a member of staff.

Those details should have been reviewed by a further member of staff before being signed off.

But the report to the committee said that review failed to pick up the error - or may not have occurred at all.

As a result of the error the council lost interest on the money totalling around £300.

The county council has since reviewed all of the instructions that had been sent by the county council in July and August.

And due to the "serious nature of the failure", an internal review of controls and procedures was conducted in October.

During the meeting of the Audit Committee, chairman Cllr Frances Button stressed that this was one payment out of the many thousands processed by the finance team in a single month.

And she later said while any error was "regrettable" and that 100 per cent performance was expected all the time, this was one error out of many thousands of payments.

She said she was proud of the council's finance officers for picking it up and for rectifying it immediately, as well as for the additional work to enhance finance controls.