Gloucestershire fire officer didn't tell accountants they sold a £400k truck and forklift

A fire officer sold a truck worth GBP400,000 and a forklift to a company without declaring payments to the county council’s accountants, according to an internal audit report. The Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service employee, who hasn’t been named, split the income received from the vehicles to avoid meeting the declaration threshold, an internal audit said. The internal audit looked at policies and procedures within Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service following a number of whistleblower complaints.

Chief fire officer Wayne Bowcock said the fire service cannot go into the detail of individual cases, but added that “decisive action will be taken against those that have fallen short of the standards expected of them.” According to fire service policy, sale of assets where the expected value exceeds GBP10,000 has to be declared to the strategic finance department.

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Income worth less than GBP10,000 can be kept by the fire service, the report added. The forklift was valued at GBP24,596 and the truck was worth GBP405,158 in 2004, and both were received and used together.

But the officer received GBP20,000 from a company for the truck, and split the income into three payments of GBP9,000, GBP9,000 and GBP2,000 in 2016, the report said. They also failed to declare the forklift to strategic finance when it was sold for GBP16,000 in 2018, and the income was split into two payments of GBP9,000 and GBP7,000, the report said. The incident response units were sold by closed tender, meaning an invitation is sent to a select group of potential buyers.

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The internal audit found there was one bid for the forklift sold in 2018, but the number of bids for the truck is “unknown as there was no documentation available to support the outcomes including the rationale behind any decisions made”.

The report also said the internal audit found e-mail evidence that suggests the value of the vehicles were “withheld from a report to the strategic leadership team”. Mr Bowcock said: “These reports make difficult reading and we will take decisive action against those that have fallen short of the standards expected of them, but we can’t go into the detail of individual cases.” “The audits were carried out into historical practises to identify where there were weaknesses in policies and process.

“We have developed an action plan, which we are already implementing, to ensure all necessary steps are taken.” The report said there was no evidence that any vehicles sold between August 2015 and April 2018 had been valued prior to disposal, and no proof that a minimum price reserve had been set for any of the vehicles sold between the same dates. The internal audit was commissioned following a number of complaints about how the fire service was run, and comes after the resignation of chief fire officer Stewart Edgar last year over the sale of a service-owned Land Rover.

Chief Fire Officer Stewart Edgar

Mr Edgar was forced to resign from the top job after an internal Gloucestershire County Council investigation found he undersold the Land Rover thousands of pounds below the market value, later buying it for himself.

An 11-point action plan has now been created to address the internal audit recommendations made in relation to the investigation of the fire service.

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