The long black arm of the law

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 18/05/2014

Senior cops have been told off for putting hundreds of coffees on their taxpayer-funded credit cards.

Documents released to the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act show police spent about $2.29 million using 817 police-issued credit cards in 2012. While the total amount spent on the cards was down on previous years, electronic equipment, accommodation, taxis and trips to the supermarket featured regularly among 20,885 transactions.

So did cafe visits, which caught the attention of Police Minister Anne Tolley. "I've asked the police executive to keep a close eye on credit card spending as these figures do look on the high side," Tolley told the Star-Times. "If it is justified spending - fine. But I've reminded police this is taxpayer money and they have a duty to spend it wisely."

Police's general manager of finance John Bole, in response to questions about the amount of food and beverage, particularly coffee, police bought with their credit cards, said: "While small purchases such as you have outlined may fall within the policy, I accept they are not desirable and managers and staff have already been reminded of the need to exercise good judgment on the use of their police-issued credit cards."

Police had "robust" policies for managing the use of credit cards, which were an efficient and cost-effective way of managing expenses, and supervisors had to approve bills.

"Our staff travel extensively for their work, with meal and beverage allowances in place for those posted away from their home base," Bole said.

In recent years, cash-strapped police have been through major cost-cutting and used a crime-fighting fund to pay a $12 million redundancy bill. There was little respite last week with the government announcing the police budget would remain frozen at $1.5b.

- Sunday Star Times

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